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2011: annus horribilis for Microsoft and RIM

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It's hard to know who has had a worse 2011. Microsoft, because during the first ten months of the year, its old OS outsold its new one? Or RIM, because its market share has more than halved during the same period?

Both numbers, centred on the US smartphone biz, come from local market watcher NPD.

Its figures, for January through October, put Microsoft's market share at five per cent. That's two per cent for Windows Phone 7, but three per cent for Windows Mobile, an OS not update for several years, seen as well behind the curve and, more pertinently, the operating system WinPho 7 was intended to replace.

Still, it fared better than Symbian and Palm OS/WebOS, both of which took single percentage market shares, according to NPD - and we suspect both were rounded up.

Neither has had a significant share for years - since 2006 in the case of the Nokia-owned OS, and since 2008 for Palm devices. Now that HP was open-sourced WebOS, perhaps its fortunes will revive, but it's hard to see Symbian's US presence going anywhere but further down.

RIM is undoubtedly praying it won't follow Symbian. Its market share peaked in 2009, when RIM's BlackBerry took 44 per cent of the market. That share fell to 25 per cent in 2010 and, on the basis of what NPD's numbers show, it'll be down to ten per cent in 2011.

Of course, back in 2009 far fewer smartphones were sold than was the case in 2011, so RIM's decline is relative. But with world smartphone shipments up 74.4 per cent between 2009 and 2010, according to IDC, another market watcher, and likely to rise again between 2011 and 2010, the plunge doesn't look good for RIM.

Google and Apple, on the other hand, have every right to feel smug. Google's share has rising from nine per cent in 2009, to 42 per cent in 2010 and 53 per cent for 2011, based on NPD's ten-month figure.

iOS' dipped last year under the Android onslaught, slipping from 24 per cent in 2009 to 21 per cent. This year it's back up again, to 29 per cent.

That's OS, of course. The Google share can be divided among multiple vendors - there is only one supplier of iOS devices, so clearly Apple is the US' biggest smartphone vendor, for now. Samsung, for one, isn't far behind, and may yet eclipse Apple this year. ®

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