Interesting that most are predicting that number one and two (Apple and Google) in the market will be companies that are not primarily in the phone business at all.
You would think that the other companies, for whom phones are a specialty would have more resilience than that.
But maybe that's the problem... in a paradigm shift for the phone business those closest to it can't cope with the change fast enough.
Also of note: of the two non-phone companies, Apple and Google, their businesses are completely different (or have been). Until iTunes, Apple was almost exclusively a hardware company. What if the iPhone became a bottleneck for the iTunes business? Apple was probably wise to allow iPods and iTunes to exist in non-Apple households. Would iTunes or the iPods have been a success at all if they only worked with Apple computers? I think not.
Has Apple mapped out this strategy in advance, or have they simply re-factored their business around which things worked out?
I think it will be hard for anyone, including Apple to predict where they will end up in even five years. They could end up with such popular hardware that they allow it to be re-branded (to some extent) by the carriers, or even Google if Android totally flops. Or, and I think more likely, as smartphones go through the inevitable comoditization phase, they could lose interest in the hardware aspect completely and focus on software, or more importantly, content.
I'm fairly sure that Google's interest is not in making a splash in the cell phone industry. Instead they provide a platform that both users and developers can flee to if the alternatives become too restrictive. The mere existence of an open platform that is supported by a rich company gives the Apples, RIMMs and Nokias of this world pause in just how far they can go to "own" the market. Android may well succeed or fail based on the extent to which its competitors "behave" themselves. Both outcomes are good for Google, and users.