Brace for impact

Think e-books are tough? Try mobile.

I’m updating a presentation on mobile reading that I am scheduled to give at a joint NFAIS-CENDI meeting later this month.  In doing the research, I think I’ve found an industry whose market share data is as opaque as the stuff we get in publishing.

This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Android had overtaken Apple in the U.S. smartphone market.  According to the Journal, people bought twice as many Android devices as iPhones.

Game over, right?  We’re all moving to Android devices.

But wait.  That’s the share of were sold in the third quarter alone.  And that’s also the total of all devices using the Android platform, not a single manufacturer.  And the article doesn’t mention the back story about Apple apparently adding Verizon to its carrier mix.

Looking for overall market share data, I came across a 7,200-word blog post that claims Apple is now “either the fifth or fourth biggest mobile phone maker in the world”.  Worldwide, Apple is bigger than SonyEricsson and Motorola, trailing only Nokia, Samsung, LG and maybe ZTE.

I’m still trying to map that to Android.

The problem, of course, is that there are at least three dimensions to study: who built the phone; whose operating system powers the phone; and what carrier is used.  I’m just glad the iPad doesn’t have a phone built in (yet).

Okay, I’m poking fun at the arcane ways in which data is parsed and spun in this industry, but there’s a lesson for publishers.  This digital world is not nearly as uniform or packaged as we’d like it to be.  Standing on the sidelines got us a mess of incompatible e-book standards.  As mobile booms, brace for impact.

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