Mark Bridge writes:
Cain and Abel. Price and Andre. Judge Dredd and Rico. History is full of pairings that didn’t work out. Two forces that started off together but ended up trying to destroy each other.
And so it could be with mobile phone operating systems.
This week it’s been reported that Nokia will be dropping Symbian from its N-series devices by 2012, favouring Maemo instead. That’ll leave Symbian for the lower-spec phones… or perhaps it’ll mean Symbian will be abandoned in a towel on the steps of Sony Ericsson’s headquarters. After all, Series 40 is ‘the world's most widely used mobile device platform’.
At the number two position in the manufacturing chart, pop pickers, is Samsung. It’s just introduced its own new OS, Samsung bada. While Samsung plays a will it / won’t it game about dropping Symbian – and Symbian hangs around in the manner of a love-sick dope who can’t see they’re about to be dumped in favour of a fresh-faced, perky new lover – it’s also snuggling up to Android. Oh, and it flirts with Windows Mobile as well, but that’s just because it likes visiting Redmond for a glass of sherry at Christmas.
Hanging on to the number three place is Motorola. Betting the farm on Android at the moment… and pretty successfully, it seems. Yet alongside the CLIQ and the Droid (or the DEXT and the Milestone in Europe) there’s a portfolio of Motorola-powered phones. Not a universally well-liked OS, I’ll grant you, but pretty successful in terms of sheer numbers. And, yes, a few other operating systems as well – but I wouldn’t like to rate their chances of survival once the handset division goes its own way.
Alright, I’m making assumptions and generalisations along the way. But mobile manufacturing seems to be splitting into ‘smartphones’ and ‘simple-phones’… and there’s no reason to suggest operating systems aren’t heading the same way. The battle of the apps isn’t just iPhone versus Android. It’s for all mobile phones in every market.
Which makes me wonder. Will each manufacturer end up with a ‘smart’ and a ‘simple’ OS? Will the basic mass-market OS and the high-end OS continue to co-exist? And if they do, will each manufacturer find out that one is Cain – and one is Abel? Which one’s going to end up ruling the roost in Mega-City One?