Rob Pegoraro is a technology columnist at The Washington Post. We recently interviewed him on our Motley Fool Money radio show. Here is an edited transcript of our conversation about the smartphone market in America.
Chris Hill: Right now, Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry has around 35% of the market, the iPhone has about 28%, Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android about 9%. Three years from now, what do you think those rankings will look like? How much do you think that is going to change?
Rob Pegoraro: I see the iPhone number definitely going up. Android is definitely going up. comScore put out some new numbers and I think they have Android up at 13% already. Windows Mobile is going down, down, down. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) is moving to an entirely new generation Windows Phone 7, but it is doing work it should have done and completed a year or two ago. Research In Motion, they're kind of in Microsoft's position as well. For years they made phones that IT departments love, but consumers are not necessarily; how many people do you meet on your days off that say, "I really want to see my working mail show up on my phone instantly"? Is that a feature on most people's wish lists? I don't know. BlackBerry has a terrible browser that they are replacing. Their equivalent of an app store is late and slow and clumsy. Their interface is just not as elegant as the iPhone's or Android's, so they have got work to do.
Hill: Is there an untapped opportunity out there for BlackBerry?
Pegoraro: Hard to say. From what I have read about the next version of their operating system, due sometime later this year, they want to make it much more touch sensitive and try to get into that consumer market. I see two opportunities that are being left open a little bit right now by iPhones and Android devices. One of them is really simple synchronization with the calendar and contact software on your computer. The iPhone does that, but in Windows it is only with Outlook and so a lot of consumer home users, they don't have Outlook, so they have no way to sync up. The other is just a cheap, cheap phone and I think Palm in its own way has been sort of backing into that strategy. If you have seen how cheap you can get a Pre or a Pixie Smartphone, in fact, with some carriers they are not practically giving them away, they are giving them away.
Hill: Is that also an untapped opportunity for iPhone and Android, to just make a really scaled-down cheap version of their product?
Pegoraro: Android, yes, iPhone, no. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) , they just don't do the stripped-down, entry level product anymore. They used to, if you go back 20 years or whatever. You had the Mac Classic, the cost-engineered version of their desktop computer. They don't really do that anymore. Google built the software to run on a variety of devices and they didn't all have to be $200, $100 Smartphones with all these capabilities.