Blog Post

Does the world need another mobile OS?

The race in mobile has defaulted to Apple’s iOS (s aapl) and Google’s (s goog) Android operating systems, but that hasn’t stopped Samsung from thinking about open sourcing Bada, or Microsoft (s msft) from pushing ahead with Windows Phone 7 and a partnership with Nokia(s nok). So while Meego, Symbian (s nok) and webOS have hit the rocks, there’s still plenty of competition gunning for the chance to fight it out with Apple and Google.

At our recent Mobilize conference, I accosted our speakers and attendees, such as Sprint (s s) CTO Stephen Bye and Ville Vesterinen, CEO of the hot game company that created Shadow Cities, to ask them whether or not the world needed another mobile OS. For the most part, folks were doubtful, but one developer surprisingly didn’t mind the idea of a third, and it’s clear the carriers want one to dampen the power that Google and Apple hold over the ecosystem. Check it out.

15 Responses to “Does the world need another mobile OS?”

  1. There’s room for one more, Windows Phone. Bada or QNX don’t really have a chance now. You need more than just a phone and hardware is fairly easy to replicate at this point. If you’ve noticed the trend, computer companies are dominating all electronics they touch and they are being tied into major ecosystems/cloud services. What does that mean? Apple, Google and Microsoft. The only possible fourth is Amazon.

  2. Lindsworth Horatio Deer

    Yes. Very necessary to prevent the biosphere of smartphones being dominated by a single species of OS, as this weakens the gene pool within the ecosystem of smartphones and makes the susceptable to outside predators.

    In case this sound like biology class, it’s not. Descriptions about living organism and concepts of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution are applicable to OS and their survival in the Biosphere called “customers”. Soe having more OS, despite their unpopularity, encourages biodiversity and make the above scenario is very possible, as a new device or even changing tastes in OS may wipe out the entire species if everyone uses the same OS. Especially Google Android, which is plagued by fragmentation!!

  3. What we need is a solid base framework based on Linux, and a browser based interaction model for emerging markets. We also need innovation.

    So, do we need another me-too OS? No. Do we need a great OS on par with iOS with more open development models and access to alternative markets? Yes.

    • Android, WebOS, MeeGo, Bada*, are all frameworks based on Linux with a significant or primary browser-based UI; Playbook OS and iOS are close cousins, based on QNX and BSD respectively. Maybe its time for some real innovation?

      * Bada claims to also run on other kernels, though it appears the Linux-based Bada is the primary branch.

  4. J. Dtewart

    Latecomers must be very very open.

    That’s why Microsoft’s closed Kin phones and Windows Phone failed. Meego would have been successful had Microsoft not put a bullet in it to prevent it even being market tested.

    An OS vendor entering the market now can’t keep all the spoils to itself. No closed ecosystem will break through.

  5. With no competition, you get stagnation, and monopolistic practices from the owners of the idea or application. Just look at the result of little or no local competition on ISP speeds and pricing. When competition moves into an area, prices drop and speeds increase.

  6. Jan Dawson

    I think it’s most helpful to split the question into two: do we need more mobile OSs in general? Or do we need more solid OSs with a significant chance of getting consumer and developer mindshare?

    I’d argue the answer to the first question is no, we need fewer overall, narrowing down to 4 or 5, because all this fragmentation is bad for everyone. But the answer to the second is yes, since we only have 2 sure things right now – iOS and Android – and lots of long tail including a couple of bigger ones. I’d say if Windows Phone, QNX and Bada could all become truly successful we’d have “enough” in some senses – lots of options for developers and users – but that doesn’t mean that those 5 should be the same 5 over time. There should always be the possibility of another to come in and take over from one of the existing ones.

  7. I don’t want to sound flippant, but if we just settle for what we have now we’ll never find out if there might be something better.

    What if we’d answered yes to this question when all we had for mobile “OS” was Symbian and Windows Mobile?