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How do you know when phone companies are in panic mode? You see them hastily organize summits and build consortiums to compete with a hot technology and ride a popular trend. That means they almost always fail at their attempts at whatever they are doing.
The growing grip of Apple’s (s AAPL) iOS/iPhone and its glimmer twin, Google Android (s goog) has the entire carrier ecosystem spooked. That’s why Orange (formerly France Telecom) CEO Stephane Richard is reaching out to the chiefs of Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Vodafone to discuss the creation of yet another platform — aka operating system — for the mobile world. A report in French newspaper Le Figaro suggests that talks are going to happen on Oct. 8 in Paris.
What could they do? Build a special Google-less Android (like China Mobile)? Develop a custom version of Symbian OS? Bring Nokia (s nok) into the fold? Their logic seems to suggest they believe, since they have a huge customer base, a common platform could bring vendors to the table. Then they can take the mobile Internet back from those California hippies!
Good luck with that. I have two words for this so-called attempt: LiMo Foundation. Yeah, even I thought it had chances of being a success, but man, was I wrong. The chances of the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC), another industry-wide effort, succeeding range from zero to oh, I don’t know… ZERO!
Let’s face it: the mobile game is all about the developers. Developers maketh and developers taketh away. The carriers and their OS efforts are only going to be good if they gain traction with developers, and that’s hard considering the efforts already invested in iOS, Android, BlackBerry (s rimm) and Symbian.
The phone companies are suddenly realizing, “Oops, we’re losing grip on our customers.” The customers who use iPhones use Apple’s billing systems. Android users will make money for Google via its mobile ad systems, and eventually through Google’s other mobile services like Google Checkout. Mobile app developers — who in the pre-iPhone era paid millions of dollars in baksheesh to get on the carrier decks — no longer have to deal with the draconian bureaucrats at these mobile operators.
Sure they try to re-create carrier decks by launching their own mobile stores on smartphones — T-Mobile has done it, and so has Verizon (s vz) with its VCast Store — but the fact remains:Nnone of these have the same money-gouging potential as the carrier deck.
These attempts are like seeing a middle-aged uncle, who upon finding that his wife left him, gets back into the dating game. He tries to feel hip by wearing Ben Sherman shirts and skinny jeans. The only person who doesn’t quite grok how ridiculous he looks is him!
Related Research from GigaOM Pro: Why Carriers Still Hold the Key to Handset Sales