By Ingrid Lunden
ABI Research has put out its latest projections on the lay of the land for smartphones and tablets worldwide in 2013. It says that there will be 1.4 billion smartphones and 268 million tablets in active use this year, with Android keeping its lead in handsets and iOS continuing to dominate in tablets. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Research In Motion (RIMM) (now known as BlackBerry) will continue to remain in the game in smartphones with small shares of the market -- enough to keep developers interested. It won't be a two-horse race, ABI tells me: "Maybe a race of two horses and two ponies."
What's different about ABI's figures compared to, say, those of IDC, Strategy Analytics, or Gartner is that ABI focuses on the number of devices in active use, rather than the number of devices getting shipped for sale. And in that regard, ABI says that Microsoft's Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 will be small, but still competitive enough to stay in the game.
By the end of 2013, there will be 45 million Windows Phone devices and 20 million BlackBerry 10 devices in use worldwide, ABI predicts. These respectively work out to 3.2% and 1.4% shares of the market. That may sound like peanuts compared with Android's 798 million handsets (57% share) or iOS's 294 million devices (21% share). But this will continue to remain just enough to keep a critical mass of developers interested in the platform -- significant because apps will continue to be one of the main drivers for why consumers buy phones, says ABI.
"The greatest fear for both Microsoft and BlackBerry is that the initial sales of their smartphones will disappoint and thereby kill off the developer interest, which then would effectively close the window of opportunity on further sales success," writes Aapo Markkanen, ABI analyst. "Our view is that the installed bases of this scale would be large enough to keep these two in the game."
This should come as mixed news to both Nokia (NYSE:NOK) (the dominant handset maker on the Windows Phone platform) and BlackBerry. It's a sign of hope that things can turn around, but given the momentum of Android right now, it could be some time before those market shares move into double-digit percentages. That, in effect, means more hard work and investment keeping investors patient and developers interested over time.
"Based on our current shipment forecasts, we don't see the installed base of either BB or WP reaching the double-digits within the next five years," Markkanen told TechCrunch. "It'll be a slow climb, since if they both stay in the game they'll be kind of eating into each other's success. It won't be that much-touted two-horse race, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a three- or four-horse race either. Maybe a race of two horses and two ponies."
ABI has also put out some figures on how it sees the active user market in tablets in 2013. While IDC earlier today noted that in tablets just over half of the devices shipped in the last quarter were iOS devices, and Android makers accounted for most of the rest, ABI's figures indicate that the installed, active base continues to remain largely Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) to lose. iPad devices accounted for 62% of the market, or just over 166 million devices, and only 75 million Android tablets. There will be just 5.5 million Windows-powered tablets in use this year, it notes.
The window of opportunity for companies like Microsoft and Research In Motions to extend use of their platforms comes down to growth rates for smartphones and tablets. These will be 44% for handsets and 125% for tablets this year compared to 2012, ABI says.