Mobile 2012: More coming than just the 'iPad 3'

Two massive industry shakeups, a reworked Android ecosystem, and more are on the horizon

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I realize this is yet another radio to power and position, but unless the industry figures out how to make Bluetooth as automatic, the user benefit will be worth device developers' time. And if anyone makes Bluetooth as simple as it needs to be, it'll be Apple, which was the first to adopt the new low-power Bluetooth spec in the iPhone 4S.

A mobile shakeout is coming
There are lots of companies vying to be the equivalents of Microsoft, Apple, HP, and Dell in the mobile space -- too many. And 2012 is the year that much of the shakeout will happen. HP's grandiose fall last year was a taste of what is to come. Apple and Google for sure will be survivors -- Apple is the Microsoft of the mobile market, and Google is doing its damnedest to occupy the same position.

Three stalwarts -- RIM, Microsoft, and Nokia -- will break through or fail this year. All three have been failing for several years, and they're all at the make-or-break point.

RIM's relying on its BlackBerry reboot -- a complete replacement of the hardware platform and OS, while keeping the famed BES management tool under the new Fusion name -- to regain its glory. But already, the new BlackBerry 10 OS and the new smartphones running it have been delayed until late 2012, ostensibly to use faster chips coming out in mid-2012. That seems a silly reason to let Apple's next iPhone and Intel-based Android smartphones, both of which should debut in the sumer-fall 2012 timeframe, and absorb the lion's share of the new and upgrade purchases in 2012.

I suspect RIM is having real trouble with QNX, but whatever the cause, I believe the only real question now is when -- not whether -- RIM will give up the ghost. I believe RIM will fail before the year is out, remaining at most a provider of BES and specialized-security devices for military and spy agency use.

Microsoft is betting on Windows 7.5 "Mango," the relatively minor update to its Windows Phone 7 OS that crashed and burned in late 2009. Windows Phone can't seriously compete against the iPhone, but its simple message-oriented design could appeal to those who don't want full-on smartphones, and thus eat away at the low-end Android market. Still, Windows Phone's minuscule market share has not been helped by the "Mango" release; if Microsoft is to be relevant in mobile, it'll need Windows 8 to be a hit on tablets.

There's a real chance Windows 8 could strongly challenge the iPad -- assuming Microsoft doesn't pull defeat from the jaws of victory as it did in smartphones. My bet is that Windows 8 will be good enough to become the No. 2 tablet within a year of its debut and bring enough Windows Phone smartphones along with it to be a distant No. 3 in the smartphone market after Android and iPhone. If Windows 8 is good in its own right and delivers on the promised integration with desktop PCs, users will have a second source for the kind of ecosystem advantage that so far only Apple provides.

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