Placing Bets On The Mobile Web

Om Malik has a great post up today titled “Why Windows Mobile is in Trouble.” In it, he cites a recent Gartner study on smartphone market share that helps put the iPhone phenomenon in perspective, and also shines a light on prospects for Blackberry’s much anticipated Storm model.

As the table below indicates, worldwide iPhone share of total smartphone shipments through 2Q08 sits at 2.8%. Despite impressive growth and a market-defining user experience, Apple’s share is – and will likely remain – just a slice of the total market. By contrast, Blackberry parent Research in Motion more than doubled share in the same period to nearly 20%. And if early reports are to be believed, T-Mobile has already booked 1.5MM preorders for the Android-powered G1, a stronger-than-expected showing for Google’s mobile OS offering.

Apple hasn’t been standing still, with a rumored 10MM iPhone units to be shipped in 2008. But while the App Store is currently the best way for software entrepreneurs to place a bet on the mobile web, it’s by no means the only one, and in the medium term is likely to be matched or eclipsed by competing alternatives Android Market and the Blackberry Application Center.

Neither Blackberry nor Android is likely to steal the spotlight from the iPhone in the short term, so a smart strategy would be to:

  1. Pick a thesis about an under-served market within the current iPhone user base,
  2. Flood the App Store with applications targeting different high-value use cases for that segment,
  3. See what sticks, and
  4. Quickly pivot to offer versions of the most successful apps for both Android and Blackberry.

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