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Who Will Be King of the Mobile OS?

By deans ~ May 28th, 2009. Filed under: Observations, Random Thoughts.

I think about this issue often.  Almost every strategic decision that I make has ties back to the question of platforms.  Unfortunately, there’s no Excalibur waiting to be pulled from the stone by the would be monarch.

Clearly, the PC presented a model of how things could go.  Microsoft became dominant and crushed the life out of everyone (“Hi,” to all of my former Now Software colleagues, sorry for the way that ended up).  As Palm has ramped up for the launch of the Pre, we’ve been forced, again, to evaluate the long term platform direction at BluMtnWerx.  While we have no immediate plans to back off from the iPhone, one always has to be aware of shifts in the industry.  I once came perilously close to forming a partnership with Netscape, for example.

Anyway, within this context, an article from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania caught my eye.  For what it’s worth, I think that Wharton is one of the top two business schools in the world, and not just because they invited me to speak there a few years ago.  Unfortunately, this paper doesn’t break much new ground, but it does a good job of laying out the current competitive environment.  If you’re at all interested in this topic, it’s worth a read.

One thing that I found particularly interesting was the assertions regarding device convergence,

…many consumers use their smartphones as if they were tiny PCs

Certainly that suggests that many modern consumer PCs are being underutilized…  It’s also pretty bad news for the PC industry.  No wonder they’re all putting so much wood behind the netbook arrow.

One primary point in the article, with which I agree whole-heartedly, is that:

It’s All about the Apps

What will ultimately decide the fate of these multiple mobile operating systems? Hsu and Ulrich agree that the number of apps (software programs) for an operating system will separate the winners from the losers. “The main differentiator will be the availability of applications,” says Ulrich. “The devices seem to be converging on two basic approaches: larger touch screens and keyboard-based devices with smaller screens. The best devices in these categories are substantially similar. The number of iPhone applications makes it the favorite in the touch screen category.”

That’s why we’re in this business!

Check out the article and let us know what you think.


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