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The Mobile OS Wars Are a Good Thing

The smartphone/tablet OS wars are exciting. There are five mainstream choices and one dark horse.

  • Apple iOS
  • Google Android
  • HP webOS
  • Intel MeeGo
  • Microsoft Windows Phone
  • RIM QNX

It’s great to have serious competition in any market. Without it, stagnation results. Just look at how far desktop Windows has come in the last decade. Compare Windows XP to Windows 7. Vastly different, aren’t they? Yeah, right!

There will be a lot more momentum in the mobile OS space due to the competition. Only the most agile companies will be major forces. Here’s my take on the competitive landscape.

Apple iOS – Used on the iPhone and iPad. The clear market leader in mindshare if not marketshare. Apple is the company to beat…for now.

The problem: iOS is completely closed and proprietary. It also desperately needs to have Steve Jobs fully engaged in it’s future growth.

Google Android – Used on a variety of mobile smartphones and soon tablets. Google is looking more and more like the Microsoft of mobile. They have established a strong position.

The problem: Google’s hardware partners will try to prevent Google from becoming too powerful. This will make it difficult for Google to take Android in the direction they want to go.

HP webOS – Used on what were Palm devices. Palm was a great company in PDAs. HP has the engineering skill and market recognition to turn Palm into a smartphone and tablet success.

The problem: HP has had limited success with small, mobile devices. They have relied on Intel and Microsoft to lead the way on larger systems. Can they blaze their own trail?

Intel MeeGo – Still in the lab. Intel needs to have a strong presence in mobile devices. Their future depends on it now that traditional PCs are a shrinking market. MeeGo is open and could be Android compatible.

The problem: MeeGo has no takers now that Nokia has switched to Windows Phone. Intel wants to be more than a chip company but they have stumbled in several attempts.

Microsoft Windows Phone – Used on some popular smartphones. Microsoft has been in the smartphone space for several years. They have powerhouse potential in any market they enter.

The problem: Microsoft is struggling. They need to abandon the Windows desktop mindset and move in a new direction.

RIM QNX – Still in the lab. RIM bought QNX to replace the aging Blackberry OS. They own the enterprise smartphone space and could leverage that to strengthen their consumer presence.

The problem: QNX is unproven in consumer devices. It is an industrial control OS. The Blackberry OS looks to be on its way out. Time will tell if RIM can hold its enterprise share and attract consumers.

The Bottom Line: I wouldn’t bet against any of these OSs given the strong backing they have. The only sure long-term winner is Apple simply because of their consumer focus. Android will survive because it is open but it may fragment badly.

I think there is room for one more major player. My pick is HP due to their consumer savvy. Intel is the dark horse. They may finally be successful in a non-chip business.

Situations can change overnight as companies fine tune their strategies, enter into partnerships and hire new people. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. What do you think?

Updated: February 15, 2011 — 9:03 am
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