WE ARE NOW entering smartphone war season with anticipated announcements from the big player and one would-be big player. The Palm Pre, new kid on the block, is a big of an enigma. The technology and the OS specification has whetted appetites and has been generally lauded as a potential iPhone slayer. But Palm are keeping a very tight rein on the news flow and some commentators fear that the company might miss the announcement deadline of "the first half of 2009". We are now under two months from the half-year and we believe and delays will be bad for Palm. For Palm, once the darling of the PDA world, everything now rides on the Pre. They cannot afford any mistakes or slips.
Meanwhile, rumour has it that the big bad wolf in the apple grove will come out with a third-generation phone on June 8 in San Francisco. This would be the third upgrade since the original iPhone hit the streets two years ago. There is a great incentive for Apple to meet this deadline because contracts with AT&T for first-generation iPhone buyers will be expiring from June onwards. These people will need an incentive to stay with Apple and a new phone and slicker OS (which will also be available for existing phones) will be a powerful incentive.
Equally, Palm will be eyeing this big opportunity as AT&T subscribers are freed from their contracts and start to look around for something to replace their original iPhone. Ideally, Palm need to announce their Pre before June 8 if they are to have a real hope of winning the 2009 smartphone wars. However, lest we think it is a straight race between Apple and Palm, let's not forget that RIM's Blackberry remains the most popular smartphone and has an incredibly loyal customer base, particularly in the corporate sector. And the Android platform, spearheaded by the G1, is coming up in the outside lane. Microsoft's Windows Mobile continues to limp along and is certainly due for an upgrade.
Microsoft, in particular, face a dilemma. There has been much talk of an iPhone-rivalling Zune phone from Redmond, but they have too much invested in the Windows Mobile platform to be in a position to ditch manufacturing partners in favour of an own-brand product to rival Apple's offering.
Smartphones now represent 23 percent of the mobile phone market and this share is growing rapidly. Apple, in particular, have demonstrated the potential through the phenomenally successful App Store and increasing numbers of consumers are now demanding more from their traditional phone.