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The BlackBerry may still be the number-three smartphone in North America, but the mobile industry is turning its attention to Microsoft.This afternoon, I participated in a panel on mobile platforms at AppNation in front of an audience including developers and marketers from app companies, as well as reps from other parts of the mobile industry like carriers and chipset makers.
When we polled the audience about which platforms they plan to concentrate on, iOS and Android were first and second. No surprise there.
More surprisingly, there was almost no debate about number three: the mobile industry has accepted the idea that Microsoft will be a player.
That’s thanks in large part to Nokia’s brand and global distribution, but more generally because of Microsoft’s deep pockets. After the panel ended, one mobile developer put it plainly: “Microsoft is buying developers and it will buy distribution.”
When we polled the audience for somebody to defend RIM, only one person spoke up — a rep from an app developer who thought RIM’s new operating system (based on QNX) had some noteworthy touches. But nobody was betting their future on it.
That matches what I’ve heard in other conversations with mobile developers — they are taking the resources they put into RIM and gradually moving them over to Windows Phone.
Typically, tech industries shake out to two players — a near-monopolist and a strong second. Think PC operating systems (Microsoft and Apple), search (Google and Microsoft), social networking (Facebook and perhaps Google). Number three is a consolation prize, but sometimes can carve out a nice niche.
But number four? That’s death. Which could be why when I asked the audience “does anybody think RIM will still be around in 2015” the response was silence.