By Roger Ordman, Director of Product Marketing at Red Bend Software

There’s been a lot of talk about smartphones heralding the end of the voice-only phone era and tablets being “post-PC devices,”. These discussions primarily address the physical form factor and the functionality aspects of mobile devices. An insightful paper by Tony Cripps of Ovum (“A PC or not a PC? That is the iPad question,” March 2011) suggests that this change in the mobile computing landscape is down to the battle of the traditional OSes and lite OSes. He states that the reason for the lite OS is the constraints of the newly connected devices, including a reliance on ARM’s RISC-based chip design.

Tony makes many interesting points, but I believe that social change is another aspect that must be considered when analyzing the change in the mobile computing landscape.

The consumer is at the center of the world surrounding us – not corporations. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks have put the person in the center of product recommendations and promotions, of marketing, and of news gathering and distribution.

This social trend of the person – and not the organization – being at the center is causing a shift in focus for the mobile device manufacturers and service providers away from the enterprise and toward the consumer as the target customer.

This social change in world events has a counterpart in the successes of Apple and Nokia. Apple understands this change in focus and realizes that the way to dominate the new era of connected devices such as the iPad and Apple TV is to build upon the success of their consumer devices the iPod and the iPhone and not to try and downsize iMacs into portable devices.

Apple markets to the consumer, even when they are selling through channels such as mobile network operators (MNO), with a consistent set of features and no channel-specific variations. Apple’s consumer focus is in clear contrast to that of Nokia. While Nokia’s focus is on building devices that are suited to the need of the MNO, Apple’s focuses on designing products to the needs of the consumers. This approach is a significant contributor to the company’s market cap of $316.4 billion, more than 12x Nokia’s market cap of $24.9 billion.

Similarly, Microsoft mainly focuses its products on the enterprise, and has ridden its success there to bring its products into our home. All the new networking and collaboration features in Windows 7 and MS Office 2010 are designed to meet the needs of the enterprise. But they far exceed the needs of the consumer.

Google, on the other hand, introduced simplified products for the consumer – Search, Gmail, Calendar and Docs – that are less comprehensive than the MS Office suite but have enough functionality for the consumer. These different approaches can be seen in the respective mobile platforms. Microsoft’s Windows Phone integrates seamlessly and securely with MS Exchange, SharePoint and Office. Whereas Google’s Android integrates with Gmail, Picasa and Google Calendar.

The biggest question to be asked of the Microsoft/Nokia collaboration is whether they will continue to be champions of the channel (MNO) or will they attempt to morph into consumer-focused companies? With their corporate heritage, is this even an option? Considering the 1 billion-plus devices that ship yearly that are not running iPhone or Android, the market potential is great and both the operators and the manufacturers are going to maintain/win a chunk of it. Nokia’s heritage for manufacturing great devices should ensure that the company remains a major player in the mobile market for years to come.

I for one am looking forward to moving back to a good and solid Nokia phone that does everything I need for work and leaves a little room for play.