It's been another big year for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and the consumerization of IT. Apple moved boldly forward and yet lost a step in both market share and esteem. Microsoft staked a claim in the tablet and phone markets. Android came to dominate the smartphone market and make tablet inroads. 4G and the cloud have become more common and big companies stepped in to take control of mobile security. Here are what we think to be the 10 most important developments for the BYOD phenomenon in 2012.
1. Apple Revs Products, Including Three New iPads
Apple will exit the year a bit less dominant than it was months ago, but it's still the market-leading brand in many respects. It's become the ubiquitous and safe bet for corporate and ISV support and iPads still dominate the tablet market, although sales figures from the end of 2012 may diminish that dominance.
Apple introduced the iPhone 5 and 3 new iPads this year: The iPad 3 (sorry, make that "iPad 3rd Generation"), the iPad 4 (which Apple is calling "iPad with Retina display"), and the iPad mini. Many competitors are trying to sustain Apple's premium pricing on tablets, although the iPhone is selling at a clear premium over competitive phones.
AAPL stock may have lost a great deal in the last few months, but it's still up a healthy amount from the 2011 year-end close of 405.00.
2. The Rise of Android Market Share
For a variety of reasons, Android will end the year clearly on top of the smartphone market, at least in terms of market share. Tech market research firm IDC actually says Android devices have two-thirds of the market share in unit sales. There's no reason to expect this to change radically any time soon.
For this reason, Android is the only mobile platform with an app collection to rival Apple's, and worldwide carriers and handset makers can offer affordable smartphones in markets where customers can't afford Apple's prices. Even people who can afford Apple in the U.S. and other wealthier countries choose high-end Android phones, such the Samsung Galaxy S III, in large numbers.
Straightforward Android tablets, like those from Samsung, have small market share compared to the iPad, but the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, which run a customized Android version and are locked to Amazon's app store, have sold millions of units. That kind of customization to the needs of the OEM is what makes Android so appealing to so many manufacturers and consumers.
3. The Rise of Android Threats
At the same rate that Android market share is growing, so does the presence of malicious software and other threats on the platform. 2012 brought a steady stream of Android threat stories raising the question of what Android users should do, if anything, about it.
The lion's share of the threats are not on the official Google Play store, but rather on third-party stores, largely those abroad and primarily in the far east. But Google Play has not been immune, as Google does not scrutinize app submissions to the same degree as Apple. Incredibly, in the same year that Google bought VirusTotal, the best malware research tool on the planet, the tech giant still does not use it to test app submissions to its store.
As a result, a security software industry for Android has emerged and most of the big antivirus players are in it. Such software doesn't exist on Apple's iOS both because the threat is so much smaller on that platform and because Apple doesn't cooperate in the development of such programs
4. Microsoft Attempts to Redefine Tablets as PCs
Microsoft stepped into the market as the new kid in Tablet Town and it didn't want to come in as just another tablet platform. So Microsoft is attempting to change the terms of comparison by redefining tablets as PCs. It's a credible argument. Will it work? We don't know yet.
There are two justifications for Microsoft's redefinition: First, tablets running Windows 8 Pro on Intel-based CPUs run existing Windows software, software designed for PCs, in addition to new Windows 8 style (formerly Metro style) apps. The new apps are all that run on ARM-based Windows RT systems like the heavily-advertised Microsoft Surface. The ability to run all those Windows programs is a major advantage over iOS and Android which, for the most part, require all-new development.
The second basis for redefining tablets as PCs is that Microsoft and its OEMs are mostly designing their tablets as hybrid touch/keyboard-mouse systems. Consider the Surface: It's a tablet, but with the optional keyboard you can also use it as a notebook with a full keyboard and touchpad. This is a necessary outgrowth of the ability to support existing Windows software, which doesn't support touch, but even with touch apps it's handy to be able to use a full keyboard some times. OEMs are showing a wave of creativity, trying to find the best "hybrid" tablet/PC designs.
So the redefinition works this way: Tablets are PCs. Any tablets that don't let you do PC things, like keyboard and mouse operations on conventional apps, are deficient. If Microsoft can talk buyers, especially business buyers, into looking at things this way, then Apple and Android vendors have a big problem, because they have nothing with which to counter Microsoft's platform.
Intel-based Windows 8 hybrids are coming slower to market than the ARM-based ones, partly because of slow delivery by Intel of the top-line chip sets. But by this time next year Windows 8 may have completely disrupted the tablet market than Apple created.