HUA HIN, Thailand - Smartphone sales surged 85% in the first quarter compared
with a year earlier, according to market researcher Gartner. Total mobile
handset sales rose 19% to 427.8 million units, with smart-phones accounting for
23.6% of this total.
In the platform race, Google has taken the lead, with Android securing 36% of
the market, trailed by Nokia's Symbian with 27.4%. Apple's iOS took 16.8%,
followed by Research In Motion's BlackBerry with 12.9%. Microsoft trailed the
pack with only a 3.6% share of the mobile operating system market for Windows
mobile OS. A strategic alliance with Nokia could be the lifeline that the
software giant badly needs in the mobile phone market.
The figures highlight how far Android has come within a year - the
same period in 2010, the fledgling operating system had only a 9.6% market
share and Symbian dominated with 44.2%.
Nokia still leads the handset market, with 107.6 million mobile phones sold in
the first quarter. Samsung and LG took second and third positions with 68.8
million and 24 million units.
Apple had a bumper quarter by doubling iPhone sales to 16.9 million units
compared with last year's first quarter. The device is now available in 90
countries, many with low salaries, which makes those sales figures a surprise
considering the high price of the iPhone compared with its competitors. The
jump in sales helped the company consolidate its position as the fourth-largest
brand in the mobile communication market overall.
Research In Motion took the fifth spot by selling 13 million BlackBerrys during
the first quarter.
Second-quarter figures are likely to remain flat due to rising inventories of
unsold phones as a result of the earthquake in Japan, Gartner said. Retailers
stocked up following the disaster and inventories of unsold phones grew by 13.3
University researchers warned this week the majority of mobile devices running
the Android mobile operating systems were open to attacks and data theft.
The weaknesses stem from the failure of Google's ClientLogin application to use
secure protocols (SSL) to encrypt data communications between the device and
company servers. This would render it open to eavesdropping and attack from
cyber criminals seeking to steal personal and financial data.
ClientLogin works by assigning an "authentication token" to a user's
credentials. By not using encryption to transfer the data, as rival device
BlackBerry does, the token - which remains valid for up to 14 days - may be
open to interception. Researchers have found that Google's calendar, contacts
and Picasa apps are all susceptible.
The company patched the security hole earlier this month with the release of
Android 2.3.4, but according to the company's own statistics, 99.7% of devices
remain vulnerable as handset manufacturers have not yet issued the upgrade.
A better system of software patching and updating between Google and vendors is
long overdue and it is often one of the major complaints made about the
operating system from hardware manufacturers.
Chip giant Intel has been making claims this week about the next iteration of
Microsoft Windows, much to the chagrin of the software giant. Intel executives
claimed during a conference that Microsoft will be releasing four versions of
Windows 8 to work on ARM processors for the mobile device market and one to run
Intel chips for older programs.
Microsoft responded with denial of such claims: "Intel's statements during its
investor meeting about Microsoft's plans for the next version of Windows were
factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading."
Microsoft is scrambling to produce a mobile version of Windows to run on tablet
devices, so it is likely that there will be a version for ARM chips that
includes an emulator to enable older software to run on them. No further
details regarding Windows 8 were released.
Sony's digital nightmare of the past few weeks continues. After restoring the
PlayStation Network (PSN) following a catastrophic cyber attack and data
breach, the entertainment company had to take it offline again on Wednesday
following more security-related problems.
The network was shut down to allow engineers to fix password security systems
and the company has been asking users to reset their passwords. Website
problems subsequently brought that process to a halt.
The patience of 77 million disgruntled PSN users is wearing thin as a result of
the frequent outages, corporate conniving, and lack of network playtime. Many
are switching to rival consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii
and some are even turning to PCs for their gaming fixes.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.