With the clock ticking down to Steve Jobs keynote (and rumored Steve Ballmer appearance) at the Apple WWDC event, as well as the rumored launch of the next-generation iPhone, it is to be expected that there is increased speculation over the end of iPhone exclusivity for AT&T and the possible launch of a Verizon iPhone. If Verizon gets an iPhone it could be a game-changer for the smartphone market.
The Android OS is rapidly gaining smartphone market share thanks to devices like the Motorola Droid, the Google Nexus One, and the HTC Droid Incredible, but part of the reason for Android's success is the limited availability of the iPhone. RIM's BlackBerry OS is the leading smartphone platform although it is more or less coasting on its former glory. It has been some time since BlackBerry has done anything really innovative or exciting.
The BlackBerry and Android platforms could both be in for quite a shock when the iPhone breaks the shackles of its AT&T exclusivity. The iPhone is only available from one wireless carrier in the US--accounting for less than half of the potential wireless customers, yet it's the number two smartphone platform. The iPhone is perceived as a consumer gadget, not ready for enterprise primetime, yet it has captured 25 percent of the smartphone market and continues to chip away at BlackBerry's lead.
Android is a very impressive and capable smartphone platform. Even without the iPhone exclusivity limitation, I believe that Android smartphones would still be successful, and would still be the number three smartphone platform and gaining in market share.
That said, the iPhone is fighting with one proverbial hand tied behind its back. It is only available from a single wireless carrier, and it doesn't use gimmicky promotions to artificially inflate demand. The demand seems to be there for a Verizon iPhone, so it's reasonable to expect that breaking the exclusivity floodgate would lead to a spike in market share for the iPhone at the expense of BlackBerry and Android.
As far as the RIM BlackBerry platform is concerned, its continued dominance of the smartphone market is based on two things--the ubiquitous availability of BlackBerry handsets from all major providers, and the perception that BlackBerry is the only platform with the tools and security controls necessary for enterprise deployment. Without those two factors, the iPhone could quickly crush the BlackBerry and take the top spot in the smartphone market.
Well, Apple has made continuous and significant strides toward resolving the issues that IT administrators and security professionals have had with the iPhone, and it has developed a variety of tools that help IT departments provision, manage, and protect iPhones. AT&T recently revealed that four out of ten iPhones sold today are sold to business users rather than consumers (although all business users are consumers, too).
Many consumers and businesses are either locked into contracts with Verizon, or simply don't want to do business with AT&T. Many Verizon customers wish they could get an iPhone, and choose Android and BlackBerry smartphones as the next-best alternative. If Verizon gets the iPhone, the only thing stopping a mass exodus to the Apple smartphone will be Verizon's exorbitant ETFs.