One of the tech industry’s favorite parlor games is speculating about what company will have the third-largest smartphone OS in the coming years behind Android and iOS.
Hairs tend to split between RIM’s BlackBerry, the ailing, but third-largest platform, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, the minuscule new player with almost nowhere to go but up. In August, comScore reported that Windows Phone had 5.7 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, compared to 41.8 percent on Android, 27 percent on iOS, and 21.7 percent on RIM. However, RIM’s market share has been on a continuous decline for months, while Windows Phone has grown at a snail-like pace.
Cell phone operators aren’t taking sides, but clearly see only three major operating systems in the future. According to InformationWeek, Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam thinks a tri-partate could form within a year.
“The carriers are beginning to coalesce around the need for a third ecosystem,” McAdam said during a talk at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference. “Over the next 12 months I think it will coalesce and you will start to see one emerge as a legitimate third ecosystem.”
RIM’s disheartening third quarter earnings report sparked RIM obituaries and sent its stock plunging, but is the platform really doomed to go the way of Palm? Not necessarily; PCMag’s Sascha Segan offers the Canadian company Five Steps Back to BlackBerry Success.
Earlier this month Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and U.S. Cellular released the first slew of smartphones based on BlackBerry 7 OS, the latest revision of BlackBerry’s operating system before the company migrates fully to a ground-up OS called QNX.
But RIM users also aren’t as loyal as before, especially as companies begin allowing employees to use more than just BlackBerrys at work (a concept known as Bring Your Own Device, aka BYOD). On Friday, UBS Research, via GigaOm, reported that retention for RIM devices dropped from 62 percent to 33 percent in the last 18 months.
Earlier, NPD also said Windows Phone was the platform to beat.
Furthermore RIM hasn’t announced any other major new smartphones or OS revamps for the rest of 2011; Microsoft is gearing up to launch its first major OS revamp, Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, and a slew of supported smartphones on AT&T.
Updated on Sept. 27, 4pm ET: The updated version of this story omits a part of Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam’s quote, originally reported by Information Week. McAdam did not identify which platform he believed would take third place behind Android and iOS.
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