The newest comScore figures, for February 2012, are out. Android has finally achieved majority market share in the U.S.. This is three months later than a linear fit to most of 2010 and 20111 predicted, but whatever happened in 4Q2011 to throw everybody off their previous long-term trend curves seems to be over. Android, in particular, is back to pulling about 2% of additional market share per month – actually, its growth rate seems to have increased a bit from before the glitch.
I was right not to overinterpret Apple’s very slight loss of market share last month. The iPhone is back to very, very slowly gaining share. Apple fans should resist the temptation to overinterpret that, though, since the gain is within statistical noise level.
RIM and Microsoft continue to go down in flames, losing not just market share but total userbase as well.
What does it all mean?
The main thing I see in these numbers is that despite all the sound and fury about Apple’s record quarter, the 4S has failed to improve the iPhone’s competitive posture against Android. The fourth or fifth iteration of “this time for sure!” fizzled yet again. I’m sure we’ll hear the same breathless hype when the iPhone 5 issues, though, it seems to be evergreen.
In fact, the pressure on Apple has increased. What we know about winner-take-all effects in markets with positive network externalities suggests that when you’re facing supermajority competition, even slight erosions in market share tend to turn into self-reinforcing cascades as users defect to the safe majority choice.
Now, this could happen to Apple at any time. Apple no longer has margin for screwing up; it can’t even afford a stumble. To be specific, just one botched product launch could easily cost it 15 points of share that it will never get back.
RIM has given up, withdrawing from the consumer market with high-ranking execs fleeing the sinking ship. Dead company walking, not that this will be any surprise to anyone following my analyses. Last June I predicted seven months plus or minus two to a crash or buyout; I was a little off, but not by much.
Microsoft is just bleeding cash and credibility at this point. There is zero possibility that they can recover against competition as strong as Apple and the Android army. And, as predicted here, they’re taking Nokia down with them.