The Reset Button


Photograph by Kevin Moloney/Fortune Brainstorm TechHorace Dediu of Asymco has been publishing some fantastic insights and analysis of the mobile market in the past few weeks. I linked to some of Dediu’s analysis of the Economics of Android in an earlier post, and since then he’s updated his work with the latest data and is studying RIM and Microsoft’s efforts in the space as well.
The recent episode of The Critical Path “Management vs. Leadership” is simply fantastic. In the episode he posits that management is the process of running the day to day operations, of keeping a well organized system moving. Leadership on the other hand, is about disruption, about what’s next, about bold moves. He captures this with the phrase, “pressing the reset button”. With these definitions in mind, a successful leader is one who disrupts their business at its peak, and unsuccessful ones wait too long to make any bold moves. Dediu cites the famous example of Steve Jobs killing off the popular iPod Mini line and wonders if Apple is now “pressing the reset button” on the iPad as it dominates the tablet market.
With that in mind, what have some of Apple’s competitors been up to?
RIM is making desperate, not bold moves, and possibly far too late. It’s considering selling its handset business, BlackBerry OS 10 is delayed, and it’s selling a corporate jet to save some cash. It’s stock price has fallen to record lows and the company just lost a patent lawsuit to the tune of $142.7M.
Microsoft is tied closely to Nokia who bet heavily on the Lumia series of smartphones. Estimates show that 400k to 1M Lumias were sold in the US (updated 7/19/12 at 3:02pm) that only 330k Lumias were sold in the US and their launch partner AT&T is now selling them for half price. Making matters worse, the Lumias aren’t able to be upgraded to the newly demoed Windows Mobile 8 that was introduced alongside the new Surface tablet. In addition to competing with Apple’s iPad, the Surface is set to compete against Microsoft’s OEM partners, which they’ve tried to downplay. Following the failed Zune and Kin brands, the struggling Lumia line which they backed heavily, the Surface brand has its work cut out for itself. Pricing and a release date haven’t been announced yet, but it will be interesting to see when it ships and what it will retail for.
Samsung is making most of the money in the Android ecosystem and companies like HTC are suffering significant losses. In Dediu’s analysis of HTC’s woes it looks as if they’ve struggled to match Samsung in volume in their transition from a relatively low volume Windows Mobile smartphone business to Android. An area that Apple has excelled at, thanks largely to Tim Cook, is in volume, and they’ve been able to quickly ramp up production, purchase components in unheard of quantities, and are investing billions in their production facilities. This is an area that Microsoft may struggle in as well. Their Xbox business doesn’t come close in size to the iPad or iPhone in units produced.
Google’s new Android tablet, the Google Nexus 7 is getting good reviews, but looks to compete more with Amazon’s Kindle Fire than the iPad. However, both devices are US only for the most part due to the lack of content distribution deals internationally which Apple has worked hard to establish. The US market is becoming an increasingly smaller piece of the worldwide mobile market so it will be interesting to see how Amazon and Google respond.
Apple is set to release their third quarter earnings next Tuesday and rumors are swirling that a 7.85″ iPad and iPhone 5 will be announced and ship in September or October.  Will these products be an evolution of the current lineup or will there be some indications that the reset button has been pressed in Cupertino?
Image credit: Fortune Live Media

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