Why the Palm Pre (or any other smartphone) can’t beat the iPhone

With all the hype surrounding the launch of Palm’s new smartphone the Pre and Apple’s responding anounceiPhone vs Prement for the future iPhone releases, our clients are asking us who is going to win.  The short answer is the iPhone and the longer answer may surprise you.

The single most important reason has nothing to do with being a phone.  Simply put, no other smartphone has the potential to replace the laptop.  It turns out that competing to be the best smartphone isn’t the game at all.  It is to create the best mobile computing platform, one that competes with laptops.  As described in an earlier post, companies are starting to test the waters regardng the distribution and management of laptops vs. iPhones.  No other smartphone competitor is in the consideration set as a realistic laptop replacement.  Apple is truely the only viable choice and has created a sizeable and sustainable advantage for itself. There are 3 core reasons why.

Operating System
Looking at the processing technology at the core of the device, only the iPhone OS and Google’s Android are derivatives of a enterprise class operating systems.  Palm’s WebOS and the Blackberry OS were invented solely for handhelds and would need a complete overhaul to compete as a laptop replacement.

Core competancy
The core business and core competency of Apple is in the development, manufacturing and distribution of all classes of computers.  This allows Apple to take advantage of this core knowledge and internal skillsets as it develops the iPhone into the leading mobile computing platform.  Palm and Blackberry are built to excel in the phone and pda markets, while Google excels at writing next generation software.  No company (other than Apple) in this space has the vertical integration necessary and would need to develop a series of complex partnership arrangements to compete.  The fact that these partnerships are difficult  is why Android has been slow to capture any significant market share to date.

Apps matter.   Apple 50,000 apps, add everyone else up and it’s not even close…  Why are most of the developers building for iPhone rather than anyone else?  They’ve created the entire ecosystem.  They have the developer toolkits, they have the development community, they have the distribution model (the Pre is trying to piggyback on iTunes) and they have a revenue share.  And, by the way, any app built on the other platforms can the built on the iPhone, the reverse isn’t true.

Until the others playing in this space realize that they aren’t playing the right game, it will be a long time before anyone truly competes with the iPhone.  What are your thoughts?  Can another smartphone replace a laptop?  Let me know what you think.

About Rick Nash

Rick is Vice President of South Central Region for Acquity Group, and has more than fifteen years of management, marketing and technology consulting experience within insurance, financial services, manufacturing, and retail industries. Rick helps his clients evaluate and apply technology to achieve operational efficiencies, communicate and market themselves, and conduct online commerce.


  1. David

    The iPhone can’t replace my notebooks and will never be able to– it is not the focus of the device. The iPhone is intended for a different purpose and may never be desigend to meet the computational demands I place on a notebook in my daily usage. Although, in a pinch, I have had to rely on my Windows Mobile smartphone to open Word and Excel docs while on impromptu calls.

    The iPhone buzz is well-deserved, but it is difficult to ignore the world-wide success of Nokia’s Linux-based Symbian platform which has largely contributed to the growth of the smartphone market.

  2. The Trooth

    How do you handle corporate enterprise administration for iPhones?!?!? You aren’t looking at “apps” or “content” (including organizational email and calendars which may be a record of your company or firm) from a corporate perspective. You are referring to apps that are interesting to people who are typically attracted to bright shiny objects and other time wasters.

    iPhone will not, and cannot, be a viable option for any organization who wishes to push out any sensitive, regulated or compliable information or data to employees until better security and centralized administration are provided. If you are an organization who’s primary mobile offerings for employees is downloading music, unregulated email and texas hold ’em then the iPhone is DEFINITELY for you.

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