Research: Apple owns mobile web, Google rules mobile search

Posted by Christian Zibreg

Chicago (IL) - We
have known iPhone accounts for the leading mobile web users, but now the first mobile web use survey ever has revealed just how much the iPhone leads Windows Mobile when it comes to surfing on
the go. The numbers also show that Android should definitely be taken
seriously -- especially when it overtakes Symbian's web use stats sometime later this month. And unlike Microsoft (who failed to extend its desktop
dominance into the mobile market), Google has taken its lead as the desktop search engine nicely over into the mobile market, which now leads both -- and the latter by an obscenely large margin.


While Net Applications' February OS web usage share
numbers score a small victory for Microsoft's Windows -- which climbed one-fifth of a point to record 88.42% up from 88.20% in
January, and while OS X hit 9.61% after surrendering 0.28 percentage points
over January -- the mobile landscape paints quite a different picture for
Microsoft's other Windows operating system, Windows Mobile.
According to the survey of 40,000 monitored sites in the
U.S., the iPhone OS commands two thirds of all mobile web surfing, and a whopping
nine times more than all of Windows Mobile-powered handsets combined.

iPhone:  World's most used mobile web surfing device

The February numbers put iPhone OS on the #1 slot with
66.61% of all mobile web use, followed by Java ME and Windows Mobile
cellphones with 9.06% and 6.91% respectively. These numbers show that
iPhone accounts for over nine times that of Windows
Mobile. Apple's wide lead with iPhone is also echoed in AdMob's
January Mobile Metric (PDF document)
which suggested that the iPhone took over half of all domestic
smartphone traffic and a whopping one-third of global smartphone
traffic on the web. However, we should note that AdMob's numbers were
likely skewed in Apple's favor thanks to a surge of iPhone web usage in
pre-holiday season when the iPhone beat Windows Mobile and RIM combined, as
well as post-holiday season.

Android:  New kid on the block

The Net
Applications survey also shows that Google's Android has managed to
equal Symbian's web usage share (both at 6.15% right now), a remarkable
achievement given that Android is found in but one handset, T-Mobile's
G1, which, in turn, has been on the market for barely four months. The
fact that Android matched in four months the same web usage share that
took Symbian-powered cellphones years to achieve is nothing but
astounding and clearly shows who the next power house might be.
"Although the iPhone has a commanding lead in mobile browsing share,
Android and BlackBerry are rapidly gaining market share,"
said Net
Applications, noting that "does not
mean that iPhone web browsing is shrinking, because the overall market
is growing rapidly."

BlackBerry OS:  Under the radar

RIM's
BlackBerry platform dominates in email, but does not fare so well in mobile
web usage where it accounts for just 2.24%. The figure puts the BlackBerry
OS behind all other rivals, including the once-strong Palm OS that still
managed to emerge ahead of RIM with 2.37%. The commanding
iPhone lead in mobile web surfing shouldn't come as a surprise
since iPhone users are known to surf a lot thanks to a full, feature-rich version of Safari
which comes standard on the iPhone, and one which pairs nicely with its multi-touch controls and
simplistic user interface -- something rivals have not been able to
match so far.

Google:  Rules mobile web search by an obscenely large margin

When it comes
to web search, Google leads by an impressive margin, even greater than their share on
desktops. In February, Google handled 97.5% of all searches conducted
via mobile devices. Yahoo handled just 2.03% of all mobile searches,
followed by Ask (0.21%) and MSN, Altavista and AOL, each with miniscule numbers. Net Applications hinted that
Google's lead may erode in the coming months due to Microsoft's
deal with Verizon, one that will see its Live Search pre-installed on all Verizon devices as the default search engine.

Mobile web as a whole:  Still a niche market

Mobile
web browsing as a whole still accounts for just a fraction of all web
browsing, though it is growing rapidly. According to Net Applications, mobile
web browsing currently represents only 0.72% of all web browsing, up from
0.69% in January. This means that Apple's 66.61% lead in the mobile web
use translates into 0.48% of all web browsing, an overall small figure though still 8x greater than web browsing on consoles, which accounts for 0.06%, and is the
same as the month-ago period.

You should also be warned to take Net Applications' mobile web
figures with a grain of salt since these figures have been derived
from aggregate data collected on just 40,000 monitored sites in the
U.S., those which reportedly act as a representative sample of the overall
market. In addition, data trends seem to wiggle and jiggle slightly from month to month, showing
that the mobile web market is still in its infancy and that nothing
should be taken for granted yet. A full run-down on the methodology used to derive figures is available here.

Microsoft fights Apple in the mobile arena

Apple's
iPhone OS and Microsoft's Windows Mobile are slowly but surely emerging
as the two fiercest rivals in the mobile arena, in the same way Windows and OS X compete today for desktop mindshare. iPhone's release has had a profound effect on the entire mobile market, having
provoked harsh comments from the software giant who didn't see Apple
coming into the game. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has publicly laughed
off Apple's entrance into the mobile market in July of 2007. In an
interview with CNBC. On several later occasions, Ballmer
consistently tried to downplay the importance of the iPhone.

According
to CNET, when Ballmer spoke to analysts during the company's update
last week in New York, he once again rebuffed the iPhone as just a
buzz. "The truth of the matter is all the consumer market mojo is with
Apple
and to a lesser extent BlackBerry," Ballmer said. "And yet, the real
market
momentum with operators and the real market momentum with device
manufacturers seems to primarily be with Windows Mobile and Android."
Ballmer did acknowledge that Mac remains Microsoft's main rival in the
desktop arena.

 LAUGHING OFF THE IPHONE
Microsoft
CEO Steve Ballmer was quick to take a jab at Apple when iPhone first hit the market in July, 2007. Speaking to CNBC, Ballmer
completely laughed off Apple's entrance into the mobile arena, spelling
doom for the iPhone because of its high price point. I wonder if these numbers will alter Ballmer's position?

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