Does third place matter in the mobile OS race?

​ABI Research’s recent smartphone research shows Android accounted for 80% of all smartphones shipped worldwide in Q2 2013.

The next largest ecosystem, Apple’s iOS, reached its lowest share in three years with 13.6% of smartphones shipped in Q2. The race for third between Windows Phone (3.5%) and BlackBerry 10 (1.2%) is driven by the efforts of beleaguered OEMs Nokia and BlackBerry.

“When you consider that even the iOS ecosystem has lost share for three consecutive quarters, it is hard to envision a third ecosystem reaching critical mass, especially when its supporting OEMs are in dire straits,” says senior analyst Michael Morgan. “Driven by billions of dollars in marketing and research, Nokia has pushed Windows Phone shipments from 6.5% shipment share in Q2 2012 to 6.1% in Q2 2013.”

Despite the 77% growth in Windows Phone shipments, it is clear that Nokia’s herculean efforts to make Windows Phone the third largest ecosystem in Q2 2013 may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory. The same could be said for BlackBerry’s efforts as the company considers its strategic alternatives.

The battle for the smartphone ecosystem requires more than just a good idea; it requires support from operators, content ecosystem and device OEMs, coupled with a clear market opportunity. While some new entrants such as Firefox OS, and soon Tizen, are bringing interesting ideas to push mobile computing forward, they face a difficult and expensive battle ahead.

“It is evident that the mobile computing market is beginning to mirror the PC computing environment in that Android’s dominant OS share is driving a virtuous cycle that is squeezing the opportunity for competitors to achieve a critical mass of devices,” adds senior practice director Nick Spencer.