The Changing Smartphone Landscape


Smartphones are in a tremendous growth period, with adoption by mainstream consumers fueling sales. As phones become more like handheld computers, the operating system that powers them becomes more important. In spite of the number of smartphones in the marketplace, until yesterday you could count the number of significant OSes using just a few fingers. That has changed due to a number of announcements coming out of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this week. The smartphone playing field has changed, and not just a little.

Until the announcements yesterday, the smartphone landscape could be defined by five major platforms. These OSes power the lion’s share of smartphones in consumer’s hands. In no particular order the short list was: BlackBerry, iPhone, webOS, Windows Mobile and Android. Depending on who you might ask, webOS and Windows Mobile were both flagging behind the others, and some were even writing off the ability of the two platforms to compete with the others.

A few major announcements coming out of the MWC have dramatically changed the smartphone landscape, and for the better. The smartphone playing field just got more competitive, and that is always a good thing for consumers. Here is my list of competitive smartphone platforms as of today, in no particular order.

BlackBerry -- RIM has made tremendous inroads into the consumer space, and while growth has flagged recently the BlackBerry is still a platform to be reckoned with. We will continue to see the BlackBerry on every major carrier globally.

Android — Google’s phone platform continues to be the darling of the smartphone world, and this will not change. Many of the top smartphones being produced today are running Android, and Google’s insane development pace will insure that continues. Most top handset OEMs are focusing tightly on Android for future products.

iPhone — Apple will continue to sell millions of iPhones, lack of multi-tasking and Flash notwithstanding. The iPhone continues to grow market share in the smartphone space, and this will continue.

webOS — Palm made a big splash last year with the first innovative smartphone OS to come along in a while, but it was not enough to drive sales numbers significant enough to gain big market share. While the future of webOS is not etched in stone, Palm will continue to be around for the foreseeable future, along with webOS.

Windows Phone 7 — Microsoft made a big splash with the big unveiling of the next smartphone OS from Redmond. Windows Phone 7 shows a tremendous amount of promise, and will likely be a big factor in the continuing smartphone wars. Many were willing to write off the long-term viability of the Windows Mobile platform, but no longer after this week’s announcement of Windows Phone 7. Details of the new platform have not all been divulged, but it’s a safe bet that Microsoft will increase market share once Windows Phone 7 actually hits the market.

Symbian 3 — Nokia’s Symbian platform has never been considered a true smartphone OS, even Nokia has been using Maemo for its own high-end smartphones. That will likely change as the company has just announced Symbian 3, the next major version for the company. Preliminary views have it looking a lot like the iPhone interface, and it is clear Nokia intends to use it to penetrate the smartphone consumer space. Nokia is the 800-pound gorilla in the phone world, and Symbian 3 will be a force to be reckoned with from that standpoint alone.

Meego — A new smartphone platform was just announced that has potential to rock things up in the space. Meego is a joint effort between Intel and Nokia that merges Moblin from the former and Maemo from the latter. The resultant open source smartphone/ tablet platform has the potential to make significant inroads into the smartphone arena, simply due to the two giant companies behind it. This new OS will likely make its way onto smartphones soon, and can potentially become a genuine player.

These are by no means the only smartphone OSes out there, but they are the ones I believe will be significant players going forward. The standard platforms are still on this list, but the newcomers that take a place due to recent events should not be overlooked.

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