Google, RIM, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung (GRAMS)

GRAMS. Universal units of measurement. And a memory-tool summarizing key smartphone players- easier to create once Nokia basically fell out of serious contention. I had expected it possible that this Fall I’d need to revise GRAMS [Google, RIM, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung], after the iPhone 5 intro. I thought it might seal the fate of RIM, denying me a consonant (GAMS?). But not so; the GRAMS Smartphone battle continues.

How bout RIM’s results? Growing in developing economies, and not declining as much as expected in the West? Fine, Mr. Heins, but you still must get those BB10 devices out early in Q12013, and those devices had better kick serious butt. RIM found fortunate circumstances this summer: the Apple-Samsung patent dispute distracted & potentially slowed Galaxy’s innovation pace; and Apple fumbled the ball on map app decisions.

The Apple map stumble I highlighted 4 months ago is serious. Mobile device users who are productivity-focused (as opposed to mobile users who are primarily leisure users) need reliable global map apps. Another reason Blackberry users might keep their antiquated devices & see what BB10 offers.

The iPhone 5? Great headphones, bigger video view screen, great screen resolution for gamers. Those are primarily leisure advantages. And what about improvements for serious (if dry) business users? For that audience, Apple made no serious progress. Apple may be on a stock high, but they missed a chance to grab 80 Million potentially-vulnerable Blackberry users, who punch above their weight class in influence and income.

Apple had a chance to deliver the coup de grace to RIM. Cook’s Cupertino-ites fell short, since they couldn’t find their way to the battle with their feeble map app. With the stock price at $700, I doubt that Cook’s Cohorts regret the miss. But my guess is that it WILL come back to haunt them. Apple’s rejection of Google maps isn’t just unwise; it also marks a past Apple flaw- hubris. Hubris that involves being unable to admit when you’re inferior. Far inferior in fact, in maps. and perhaps years from being able to catch up.

The ‘smartphone battle’ of the second half of 2012, has turned out to be a little less of a battle, and a little more of a recess. A time-out. A pause before a storm.

Steven Litt