Monday, December 6, 2010

Who will win the mobile OS war?

The other day I saw that Joshua Kahn had posted the following:

Where Should Mobile Developers Focus? - A VC

I think about this subject more often as customers seem to be bringing this up more often. I believe that we have many parallels out there to look at that will help determine who will win and why.

Lets start with why I think Apple is on a course to lose:

Apple has been in this position before: lots of great advertising, exciting new technological advancements happening every six months, large base of potential customers. What I am referring to is the point at which they were fighting against IBM with products like the Apple IIe and the Lisa. Part of the reason that Apple has never been able to win the OS war in PC v. Mac is because of the resistance to allow the Apple OS to run on other companies' hardware.

This is the issue that they are running into now, with one carrier and 4 versions of the iPhone vs the multitude of Android devices. (Let's not forget the RIM has manufactured more Blackberries that I wish to count).

Why is RIM (Blackberry) on a course to fail?

Blackberry devices were the dominate smartphone for business for so long that I think that RIM has forgotten that business users are just a niche market. This company has lost sight of the mainstream as many companies do throughout the history of personal computing there have been companies like Iomega and Alienware that have come out with great products, but have fallen short due to not being able to appeal to the mainstream.

Blackberry phones are amazing for Blackberry users, but they are primarily for work first and entertainment second. The current mainstream population wants it in the opposite order, but all is not lost. The Blackberry Playbook looks like it will be the most integrated tablet on the market - more on integration later.

Why Android hasn't crushed the competition:

The Android operating system has a great foothold on this war. With the ability to place it on any product for free, this is very attractive for manufactures, thus we have explosion of Android devices. The problem that this OS faces is that it doesn't play well enough with others yet. For the most part the Android phones are islands to themselves with little interaction outside of the phone.

Also, this OS is like Linux in more ways than being open source. The Android OS isn't as flashy as the iOS, it is getting more and more like it, but the strengths of only having one current version of the iPhone at a time are the same strengths Apple has in their computers. These strengths include stability and performance.

So if they are all destined for failure who will win?

The first part is integration. The first company to provide a way for a person to move their current project from one "screen" to another the same way that a person running dual-monitors can drag an application from one monitor to another, will be the front runner of integration. Imaging being able to start viewing a website on your phone and with a flick of a finger view it on your TV or on your computer monitor. What if you could do that in reverse as well, for when you are about to commute? It doesn't just have to be a website, it could be a text document, a slide show, a video game. That will be the winner. The Blackberry Playbook does a bit of this in their teaser video, but who knows how much will actually happen. Also, it isn't the first company to make one happen, it is the first company to make it happen well.

The next part is carrier selection. Currently Blackberry and Android phones are available on multiple carriers, the iPhone isn't. If any of these rumors about the iPhone moving to another carrier actually happen this will be a big shot in the arm for iOS, but the question then becomes is it too late? Will Android users move to the iPhone just because it has come to their carrier? Only time will tell.

Software development is a big part of this as well, and I am surprised to see that the big video game companies are not jumping in on this as much as they should. I will make this prediction, the OS that gets the biggest support from established video game producers will win this war. (Lets see what happens, if that PSP phone ever gets released).

The last thing that is holding people back on jumping into a smart phone is the carrier data plans. After large 4g pentration I predict that carriers will start bundling their hotspot and data package to a price that is competitive with home internet providers. Once this happens the true smart phone explosion will happen.


  1. I guess I didn't give a prediction. Let me do that here: Android will win this war over time.

  2. what about phone 7? If its about integrated experience across PC and Phone shouldn't MSFT be in the mix? I don't think there will be a winner overall but probably a race of 3 coming in this order. Android, Apple, MSFT. The reason being Android will have an OS (Chrome) coming out and will make it easy to go between two, Apple is already has the silo approach down and is gaining fans. MSFT will take up the business left over from RIM and Phone 7 will entice enough users to give it a try.

  3. I think there are room for a few platforms. BUT, once the world understands that there won't be a need for "apps" in the future (when people build smart, HTML5 based m.web experiences", there will be less of a difference between the platforms.

  4. @youtim
    The reason I discounted Windows phone 7 was that it did why Cyrix did right before the end of that company, it made a terrible product then released on that wasn't as bad, but not competitive. I like the OS, but I don't think that it has enough press to overcome the bad taste that they left in everyone's mouth with 6.5.

    @John Bernier
    I know there is room for multiple platforms - there are currently multiple platforms for notebook/desktop OS, but I think we can all agree that Microsoft has won the OS war for those types of devices.

    @Andrew Ball I don't even know what that means. When I attempted to Google it, Google ask my why I was trying to kill their search engine.