How much mobile Internet market will open source get?

Summary:With everyone working more or less together on this I expect a true iPhone competitor in about a year. You will know we're getting warmer when Apple offers its pride and joy for the cost of a data contract.

With the World Mobile Conference now over, and most of the world's handset makers lining up behind some open source project -- Android, LiMo, Symbian -- it's time to ask how much of the mobile Internet client market open source might get, and when.

Let me be clear about what I mean by that.

There are really three mobile markets:

  • Phones. Still important, still profitable, but very much the past.
  • E-mail clients. Whether the President still carries a Blackberry or a Windows Mobile device, he's got it for the e-mail. Words on a screen, maybe some smileys. He's not going to Google News or Facebook or ZDNet Open Source on it.
  • Mobile Internet Clients. An iPhone is a true mobile Internet client. It's designed for broadband and broadband services. It's used for browsing, gaming and ftp. Yes it's a phone, but voice is a low-bandwidth app.

Now you can use a phone for e-mail, and you can use Windows Mobile for browsing. But when it comes to broadband there's only one. The iPhone. Nothing else will do.

This is where open source holds promise. Big screens, real apps, broadband connections and WiFi too. I don't think the current Android kit yet hits that mark.

The proof lies in usage statistics, and when they do hit the mark expect a lot of press releases. Heck, expect Paul Revere raised from the dead and riding down Broadway shouting "the Androids are coming." (Paul Revere is a hit with fans of Ron Paul.) Or the LiMos or the Symbians or whatever.

What happens now is everyone goes back to their drawing boards. Reference designs, chip sets, and delivery announcements to follow.

Despite the recession expect these to happen on the old three-month roll-out schedule. Carriers are desperate to solve the iPhone problem, and manufacturers know the first to crack it has their only true market advantage.

With everyone working more or less together on this I expect a true iPhone competitor in about a year. You will know we're getting warmer when Apple offers its pride and joy for the cost of a data contract.

Topics: Open Source, Broadband, iPhone, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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