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Summary:

As consumers use multiple mobile devices based on function — and data plans finally catch up with the trend — the mobile industry should move away from pinning

android-honeycomb

Almost every manufacturer at Mobile World Congress this year seemed to be showing off their new tablets — and almost all were running some version of Google’s Android operating system, whether it was Android 2.2 Froyo, Android 2.3 Gingerbread, or Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Likewise, we saw a plethora of “smartphones” with 4-inch or larger form factors. The distinctions between device types are blurring.

The trend amongst mobile workers, particularly at this Congress, has been firmly toward carrying many different devices with many different form factors around to support different patterns of mobile working. This will be supported by current trends in data charging. T-Mobile announced on Tuesday that it is introducing flat-rate charges across all of its European markets to encourage users to access data when roaming, and other operators are likely to follow. With the advent of flat charging, the decision about device no longer becomes a decision about cost, but becomes one about function.

Manufacturers increasingly want us to buy not just their device, but their ecosystem — and are using interoperability between devices as a selling point. The new HP TouchPad, for example, features the ability to easily share a URL with another mobile device running WebOS such as a Palm Pre. The Scrabble “Tile Rack” App is an example of the same kind of phenomenon for iOS — an additional iPhone or iPod Touch being used to solve a design issue.

Leading providers of internet services have also picked this up through their market research, and are designing their services accordingly. Facebook is leading the way with the new version of its Messages, which promises to provide a seamless experience across devices. Comparing types of devices is misleading: a more apt point of comparison would be ecosystems and form factors within them.

Naveen Tewari is the CEO and founder of InMobi, one of the world’s largest independent mobile ad networks.

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  1. I think this article is dead on especially with the new CPU chips that are hitting the mobile market. Smartphones can do what today’s average (read cheap) laptops can do.

    The key in this mobile OS race, I think, is the platform that crosses form factors and offers enough software so that the average PC user won’t miss their old ecosystem; however, this requires that the mobile OS scale to the larger form factors–laptops & desktops.

    Apple is leveraging OS X with iOS to make a full ecosystem however, that is not a seamless ecosystem. Microsoft is betting on Windows 8 to cross hardware devices to create a more seamless ecosystem. And Android?

    Well, Android is being held back, so it would seem, by Google in an attempt to push the cloud with Chrome OS instead of allowing Android to create a full rich ecosystem that reaches all form factors. I personally don’t think this is a wise move.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I would greatly enjoy a “unified” OS that works on all my devices (phone to desktop) and gives me a similar experience on each, and allows me to use the same software/ecosystem throughout.

    Currently I’ve only heard of Microsoft (Windows 8) talk about one OS for all devices. The others seem to be playing a game of mobile OS + desktop OS–I’m not sure that’s the smartest game to play.

    At least we are having some competition now.

    1. I agree. Google can continue pushing Chrome OS on laptops, and especially for enterprises, but I don’t think they should intentionally not let Android jump to the laptop form factor.

      However, I think they are already taking this into consideration, because Honeycomb has a “desktop feel” to it, and it will probably look pretty good on a tablet. In the next year or two before Windows 8 is out, I think they’ll optimize the UI even more so it works better across devices from phones to laptops.

      Google’s most powerful ally in the battle against Microsoft is actually the ARM chip. As ARM chips grow in popularity and performance, and start replacing Intel chips even in laptops, they are creating a huge disadvantage for Microsoft and Windows.

      Even if Microsoft will port Windows to ARM, it won’t get back all the apps from the Windows for x86 platform. Windows for ARM will actually have a smaller ecosystem than Android at launch, especially when you couple that with the fact that right now no Windows apps are touch based either.

      1. There are a few hints in Honeycomb that could possibly suggest netbook/smartbook adoption and a few companies are putting out netbooks/smartbooks like Toshiba & Asus.

        However, Eric Schmidt at MWC once again made the statement that Android is for touch and Chrome OS is for keyboard. I just hope that isn’t a hard rule. Before it was Android is for phones and Chrome OS for everything else. . . I think that’s what it was.

        As far as Win8 loosing apps due to the ARM port. I’m not so sure about that. They may be doing something that allows the same app to run in both environments–maybe something similar to Google’s PNaCl.

        Anyway you slice it, I do hope Android starts hitting some larger form factors, and it would be great if they would work in Linux apps–that would increase productive apps very quickly.

        Only time will tell. . .

  2. No one is having a hard time communicating smartphone to smartphone. You mention 2 Eco features 99.9% of the population could care less about. It’s not about ecosys, it’s about social/search destinations and which ones users integrate/embed into their lives.

  3. “Mobile Is Now a Game of Ecosystems, Not Devices”

    It is this game of ecosystems that led Nokia to abandon MeeGo at the alter and leap into a carriage with Win7.

    There is only going to be room for a small number of these mainstream ‘ecosystems’ and the competition is coalescing fast.

    That doesn’t mean that niche platforms won’t survive however, including MeeGo.

    http://jedibeeftrix.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/nokia-microsoft-and-what-it-means-for-qt-and-meego/

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