This, to put it simply, is unheard of.
In the modern age of computing—that is, in the last couple of decades—we've never seen a launch season like this. There are billions of dollars in profit at stake over the next 12 weeks alone.
Nokia , until recently the biggest name in phones, launches a must-win smartphone lineup Wednesday. A couple of hours later, Google , the biggest name in Internet services, is expected to stage its first major device launch since taking over Motorola Mobility.
On Thursday Amazon , the biggest name in online retail, will take the wraps off a new line of Kindle tablets and e-readers. And next week Apple , the most valuable company in the world, will launch the latest version of the iPhone, the product that earned it the title. Also expect to see new iPods, and next month, a smaller iPad. (
And that's just the beginning.
Microsoft , the biggest software company in the world, late next month will launch Windows 8, the most radically redesigned version of its flagship operating system in 20 years. At the same time it will launch its first tablets—a risky move that could either put it on the map in mobile, or start unraveling the partnership with hardware makers that helped Bill Gates define the PC era.
There are more, but you get the idea.
Why the crush of product announcements?
The best explanation I've heard came from Paul Jacobs, the CEO of mobile chip powerhouse Qualcomm , supplier to practically all of these companies. When I sat down with him late last week during one of his trips to Silicon Valley, he pointed at Apple. Apple became the envy of the tech industry, he said, by coming out with devices that knit together hardware, software and services in a cohesive package. Now everyone else is launching mobile hardware to try to keep Apple from eating their lunch.
He's right, of course—and there's more to it than that. Apple leveraged the iPod's success to make the iPhone, and the iPhone's success to make the iPad. Given the iPad's growth rate, and the PC's decline, Apple could soon start sucking the majority of the profit out of the PC business that Microsoft and Intel have traditionally ruled. (Related: How big is Apple?)
In other words, this is the end of the regular season in mobile. We're headed for the playoffs. And this fall launch season, culminating in the flurry of consumer holiday spending, could go a long way toward determining who will split the lion's share of the profit in computing for the next decade.