Saikat Chaudhuri Weighs in on the Smartphone Shakeout

In a Knowledge@Wharton article, Professor Chaudhuri says that hardware companies (such as HTC and Nokia) end up playing second fiddle to software in the smartphone industry, where the distinguishing factor is often the community of developers and applications that are available to the phone. In addition, Chaudhuri states that as the industry matures technological advances in hardware have become less radical and more incremental, meaning fewer customers feel the need to purchase a new phone every six months. Not even Apple is immune to this development; the company’s third-quarter results fell below expectations because many consumers chose to hold out for the next-generation iPhone than buy the iPhone 4S. Although Android and Apple do remain the most popular mobile phone operating systems, “nobody wants to be in a duopoly,” according to Chaudhuri. There is still an opportunity for a new mobile platform to take a significant amount of market share and be the Number 3 most popular platform (current competitors for that position are Windows Phone and RIM’s proprietary system), but hardware makers will still face the challenge in how to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market where the defining characteristic (applications and operating system) are not necessarily tied to only one company or product.