RIM and Microsoft: Dance of the zombies

Their 'partnership' will change nothing in the mobile market, which is following the path of the iPod instead of Windows

Microsoft plus Research in Motion equals what? Not much. The alliance of the two losers in the mobile computing race reeks of desperation and leaves me with an overwhelming sense of "so what?"

Microsoft will likely gain some search engine share for Bing, which alone probably justifies the expense. But RIM will gain nothing other than more cash to burn through. The partnership changes nothing: RIM is in desperate trouble, and it's becoming clearer every day that iOS -- not Android and certainly not BlackBerry (if you can even call it a platform) or Hewlett-Packard's WebOS -- is the winning mobile platform.

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The tablet market is following the pattern set by the iPod, not the PC, says Rob Enderle, a veteran technology analyst. Indeed, the conditions that led to the dominance of Microsoft in the 1980s were unique and won't be repeated. "For it to break the other way, you need a major player like IBM was for the PC to move against Apple, and we don't really have anyone at that scale," he says.

"If all of the Android folks got on the same page with apps and content and there was some unique compelling content, I think this might end up that [1980s] way again [with Android becoming the Windows of mobile], but the Android folks clearly don't want to cooperate with each other, and Google isn't showing any ability to control themselves let alone their licensees," says Enderle, who runs his own analyst shop, the Enderle Group.

The iPod showed the way

The key factor in the PC market back in the 1980s was the development of a standardized platform, driven by IBM's decision to back Microsoft and DOS for its PC. Business appreciated the idea of being able to buy PCs that looked alike and performed alike from their choice of vendors, all of whom competed on price.

Apple, meanwhile, locked down its platform and kept prices relatively high. It arguably produced the better products, but that didn't matter. Although Apple made enough money to survive, it remained a niche player for years. Along the way, other vendors of proprietary systems such as Commodore failed and disappeared.

Contrast that with the dominance of the iPod, says Enderle. As with PCs, the market for personal music players (originally defined as MP3 players) started with a bunch of proprietary candidates. But, he argues, there was no business market to drive sales of a standardized product and no player with the stature of an IBM.

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