09/09/2013 11:35 am ET Updated Nov 09, 2013

The Rule of 3. Or 4, or 5, or 6


Who doesn't appreciate having options? When making a choice as a consumer, having three things to choose from feels more satisfying.

The "Rule of 3", according to Wikipedia, is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are "inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things."

I believe this generally holds true in other parts of the real world as well. Think about it - in the morning doesn't it feel better to have three shirts to choose from rather than two? Who doesn't appreciate having options on a menu -- chicken, beef or fish -- where choosing one over the others makes the meal much more tantalizing and satisfying (and what are you leaving out - the red meat or the fish?!?).

When you are making a choice as a consumer, having three things to choose from feels more satisfying than if you're choosing from just two. And the opposite also rings true: having too many choices can be overwhelming and make things seem unsatisfying and difficult, and to a degree almost paralyzing. It seems like a market or ecosystem often rejects situations when there are too many choices, and then corrects itself. (Sometimes these situations need a little help - Amazon's recommendation engine is a great example of how an insurmountable number of choices can be culled into a manageable amount).

I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about how the recent transactions in the wireless space will be impacted by this. Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's handset business has seemingly presented us with three finalists in mobile operating systems: iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile, all three of which are owned by a company who also is a hardware manufacturer.

Notably missing from the list is Samsung, the world's largest seller of phones.* Samsung has made the Top 5 list of best-selling mobile phones for 3 years running. Can they continue to be the world leader, while building on other companies' OS? Or does their future rest with the success or failure of Tizen, Firefox or some other yet-to-be-released OS?

I can't help but wonder how this will impact the rest of the world's handset makers - HTC, LG, Blackberry, Huawei, Sony, and others, as well as companies like Lenovo who are looking to devote more resources to the sector. How will they be able to differentiate themselves to make consumers care? Will it exclusively rely on physical design and hardware specs? Or can they find new ways? And if not, will we continue to see a consolidation and erosion of the market?

Only time will reveal the answers to these questions; I for one am very excited to see what happens next and look forward to being a part of the conversation.

*Source: Gartner Says Smartphone Sales Grew 46.5 Percent in Second Quarter of 2013 and Exceeded Feature Phone Sales for First Time