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Article from Fierce Mobile.

“Devices running Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android mobile operating system encompassed more than half of all U.S. smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2010 according to market research firm NPD Group. Android increased its U.S. market share lead to 53 percent as 2010 closed, up 9 percentage points over Q3–Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS slipped 4 percentage points to account for 19 percent of sales, tied with Research In Motion’s (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry (down 2 percentage points). NPD notes that Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) legacy Windows Mobile OS dropped 3 points to 4 percent of the U.S. market, while its new Windows Phone 7 debuted at 2 percent, deadlocked with Palm’s webOS. The firm adds that Windows Phone 7 claimed a smaller market share at launch than either Android or webOS during their respective debuts.
Apple’s iPhone 4 was the best-selling mobile phone in the U.S. during the fourth quarter, followed in descending order by Motorola’s Droid X, HTC’s Evo 4G, the iPhone 3GS and Motorola’s Droid 2. For the first time ever, NPD’s quarterly Top Five sales chart did not include a feature phone device.
Android is now the top-selling smartphone OS worldwide as well–Android unit shipments surpassed Symbian device shipments for the first time in the fourth quarter according to data issued technology analysis firm Canalys. Android shipments topped 33.3 million in Q4, translating to a 32.9 percent share of the global smartphone market, Canalys reports; a year earlier, Android shipments represented just 8.7 percent of the worldwide market, a 615.1 percent leap. Symbian shipments grew from 23.9 million in Q4 2009 to 31.0 million in the most recent quarter–however, its worldwide market share plummeted from 44.4 percent to 30.6 percent during that time.
iPhone shipments increased from 8.7 million in Q4 2009 to 16.2 million a year later–its smartphone market share slipped from 16.3 percent to 16.0 percent. BlackBerry fell from 20.0 percent market share to 14.4 percent as device shipments increased from 10.7 million to 14.6 million–Windows Phone also stumbled, with its market share falling from 7.2 percent to 3.1 percent as smartphone shipments decreased from 3.9 million in Q4 2009 to 3.1 million a year later. Total worldwide smartphone shipments surpassed 101.2 million in the fourth quarter, up 89 percent year-over-year.

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Here is a report from SF Gate.

“Apple, long the scrappy but innovative challenger to dominant Microsoft, has passed its rival in market capitalization, becoming the most valued technology company in the world.

The shift in fortunes became official at the close of the stock market Wednesday, when Apple’s market capitalization – the sum of its outstanding shares multiplied by its stock price – finished at $222.07 billion, ahead of Microsoft’s at $219.18 billion.

Though the distinction is merely a milestone, it culminates an amazing turnaround for Apple, which was given up for dead in 1997, when Apple founder Steve Jobs returned as CEO. Apple is now the second most valuable company in the United States after Exxon Mobil.

“This has got to be not only one of the greatest comeback stories, but success stories of the last 20 years,” said analyst Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies. “You see companies coming back from the dead, but not to the point where they achieve this staggering financial position.”

Since September 16, 1997, when Jobs returned as CEO and Apple shares traded at $5.49 per share, the stock has surged 4,346 percent and now trades at $244.11 per share. Over the last five years, Apple’s stock has grown about 600 percent while Microsoft’s managed a modest 5 percent growth.

The shift validates Apple’s strategy of focusing on smart phone and tablet technology, which is on track to eventually outgrow the traditional PC business.

Michael Mace, who worked at Apple for 10 years prior to Jobs’ return, said Apple held the upper hand in the rivalry with Microsoft before being passed in the early 1990s. He said after that point, most employees gave up any hope of rivaling Microsoft financially.

“When a company runs away from you, you usually don’t get a chance to run them back down,” said Mace, a consultant with Rubicon Consulting. “But what Steve (Jobs) has managed to do is produce a series of seminal, meaningful, market-changing products.”

Apple found new life by remaking itself as a mobile company. While it continues to snag more PC market share from Microsoft’s Windows operating system, it is setting the pace of innovation in mobile devices.

Starting with its iPod media players in 2001 and more recently with the iPhone in 2007, Apple has become a leader in building the kind of portable devices that appeal to users. Apple’s iPods command more than 70 percent of the digital-player market, while the iPhone represents a quarter of the smart phones in the United States.

Now, with the iPad tablet selling a million units in its first month, Apple is leading that market as well.

“Apple is sitting on a gigantic business that’s just taking off,” said Leander Kahney, editor of the Cult of Mac blog, who’s written several books on Apple.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has struggled to grow beyond its roots in PC operating systems and applications. Its Zune media player and Windows Mobile operating system are not clicking with consumers. On Tuesday, the company announced a management shakeup in its gadgets and games division.”

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