Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

Summary: A research report concludes that the mobile OS war has been decided and Apple's iOS and Android are the big winners. In the long run will that really be the case?

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Apple's iOS and Android will be the dominant platforms for mobile operating systems and rivals can just pack it in. It's over. Kaput. Why should competitors bother? And why would developers pick anything other than Android and iOS?

That argument comes from Stifel Nicolaus analyst Doug Reid. In a research report last week, Reid said that the mobile OS war has been decided and future growth will come from the connected home.

There are hedges here, but Reid said the following in a research note:

iOS and Android are on track to dominate mobile device markets In the near term (3-12 months), we expect the rapid pace of innovation in mobile operating systems and related ecosystem content to: (1) drive industry unit growth for smartphones at levels above investor expectations (CY11E growth of 27% y/y versus 23%-24% consensus); and (2) cause unprecedented disruption to OEM market share as consumers and business users migrate to the leading mobile OS platforms—iOS and Android. Within our coverage Apple and Motorola appear best leveraged to industry trends while Research in Motion and Nokia appear vulnerable to continued market share losses and potential earnings misses.

There aren't many folks that would argue with that. Reid's other argument is that the iOS vs. Android scrum will bleed over to consumer electronics is also true. Reid argues that mobile operating systems will dominate converged platforms across smartphones and PCs---and potentially consumer electronics.

But the real thing to ponder comes in Reid's headline: Are the mobile OS wars really decided?

Consider the following:

  • Android barely existed a year ago.
  • Apple's iPhone didn't even appear until 2007.
  • Companies with vast resources---Microsoft and HP---will push their own mobile operating systems.
  • And incumbents like Nokia and RIM aren't going to roll over and die.

Simply put, anything could happen. Four years ago, you'd say the mobile OS wars were decided---and Nokia was the champ. No one would say that today. How could things change? Here are a few ideas:

  • Microsoft's persistence could make Windows Phone 7 a popular platform.
  • Fragmentation could knock Android off of its perch.
  • Nokia's developer efforts could pay off.
  • RIM QNX platform, the successor to the BlackBerry OS, could be a game changer.

A more proper argument is that the mobile OS war has been decided---for now. In the long run, this mobile OS fragmentation will be boiled down to two or maybe three winners. Today, it looks like iOS and Android are the favorites. Two years from now that may not be the case.

Topics: Software, Android, Google, Mobile OS, Mobility, Operating Systems

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38 comments
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  • And then there was Meego.

    It has legs. Seriously Lawrence, follow this effort closely. Its a sleeper!
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
    • Meego FTW

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate says "Its [sic] a sleeper!"

      I believe that the weight of Java will eventually slow the horse that is Android. Lack of vision and leadership will cripple WebOS. Boredom will stymie iOS (although I'm hopeful that Facetime will take off). WP7's message is simply not clear, "it's a phone to save us from phones." Huh?

      So if MeeGo can get solid in the next 6 - 12 months, I'm looking forward to flashing it onto a phone, a tablet & a netbook. Whoo hoo!
      Olderdan
  • Makes sense

    People want iPhones and Droids.
    People don't want Microsoft and WP7 will be a dud.
    Blackberry will sty the business platform.

    So, yes it has been decided.
    itguy08
    • RE: Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

      @itguy08 Nobody wants WP7? I've dropped my iPhone for an htc 7 Mozart...
      wright_is
      • RE: Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

        @wright_is Nobody except for you and some other 39,999 clueless people. ;-)
        drphysx
      • RE: Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

        @wright_is
        40k on launch weekend is pathetic. I'm sure there are lots that dropped their xxx for yyy.

        I dropped my iPhone 3G for a Droid X. Your point is?
        itguy08
      • RE: Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

        @itguy08 If you want to say something, get things through your head for a while: "40k on launch weekend... ", did I tell you that, or you made it up? the original source of this kind of information came from thestreet.com, which states from some unnamed source that WP7 sold 40K on the launch Monday. 40K ~= 18% market share! I can teach you the math if you don't understand it. If that is pathetic, Android launch day was like 4K? What do you call that?
        jk_10
    • RE: Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

      @itguy08

      I've used iPhones, Blackberries and Droids. I now have a HTC Mozart. Why not try one and see what research and design can do? If you live in a Windows world, it makes sense to have a phone that synchronises seamlessly with your business and social life and has a much better UI than any current mobile phone.

      But then I'm using one and liking it and you're just hoping it' s a nightmare and you'll wake up soon ;-)
      tonymcs@...
      • @tonymcs@... I assume MSFT knows where to send the check?

        @tonymcs@... I assume MSFT knows where to send the check?
        willhoyt
      • RE: Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

        @tonymcs@...
        'it makes sense to have a phone that synchronises seamlessly with your business and social life and has a much better UI than any current mobile phone.'
        Well since winpho7 won't even sync with Outlook that would make the iPhone a better choice which has no such problems.
        I call fail
        frogspaw
    • RE: Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

      @itguy08 - look lost ball in tall weeds...get out of the parents basement dude.
      ItsTheBottomLine
  • Microsoft has lost the mobile game

    Microsoft will be forced to exit the phone business next year (2011).<br><br>Android and iOS now have an insurmountable lead, which Microsoft cannot catch up with. Microsoft says there are plenty of people who don't yet have a smartphone, but that is not what matters. What matters is that the competition has too much of a head start to catch up.<br><br>Windows Phone 7 is lacking apps, and missing features. Microsoft needs another 2 years to catch up, but by that time Android and iPhone will be even further ahead.<br><br>Android has already won the phone wars, with Apple's iOS in second place. Windows Phone is now doomed.
    Vbitrate
    • Yup

      @gyepera

      I think I have been saying essentially the same thing for a while now. MS does not have the advantages it did when the PC revolution started. I agree fully with Mr. Reid, including the spillover into other platforms. Once you are comfortable with a platform and its applications, AND that platform can meet all your needs (which it will in not too long), why would you even consider anything else?

      Geeks and power users (myself included) will still use "old fashioned" personal computers, but most folks will not.
      Economister
      • RE: Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

        @Economister To agree with that statement is just silly. I find it humorous, in 2 years it will be same die hards saying something else.
        ItsTheBottomLine
    • RE: Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

      @gyepera Are you employed? Do you have friends or a family? I seriously doubt that.
      UseYourHead
    • RE: Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

      @gyepera

      I'll take the bait.

      The writer of this article seems to actually have a perspective that looks at a broader history of mobile phones, not simply the last year and a half.

      People were saying similar things when the iPhone debuted. They were coming up against incumbents like RIM who had the business market essentially cornered, and the Blackberry Curve was able to do...pretty much everything, as did the Nokia N95. Windows Mobile might not have had the prettiest UI in existence, but they and Palm had an entrenched software ecosystem that made them popular in business settings. Apple was also going up against the fact that Verizon has traditionally been a carrier favorite for many, many businesses, and the iPhone wasn't going to be available on anything but AT&T. Apple also had a failure (or niche product) for every success. Android was a niche OS on a single phone on the smallest US carrier for nearly a year before Verizon pumped a billion marketing dollars into the Motorola Droid. Finally, both iPhone and Android were missing features in their initial releases. Over the years, many have been addressed.

      After watching the mobile space for the past decade, only a fool would declare a winner in perpetuity. The market expands, evolves, and mutates. Don't be a fool.

      Joey
      voyager529
      • Most of the past decade is irrelevant

        @voyager529

        Try looking to the future instead
        Economister
    • RE: Have the mobile OS wars really been decided already?

      @gyepera?
      Actually, Apple is still winning the Mobile OS wars (the phone segment is only part of the far more important Mobile OS Wars)

      More iOS devices ship each day (275,000 -300,000) than Android devices (200,000 - 250,000) and the iOS installed base is far larger (125 million) versus low tens of millions for Android and with the enormous growth in sales of the iPad and the newly re-designed iPod Touch, that the jury is still well and truly out on what the market will be like 12 months from now.?

      -Mart
      marthill
  • Goofy conclusion

    As long as we keep having subsidized hardware, therevwill be a 2 Year life cycle and continued opportunity for a new player to snag a large marketshare. People want the latest and greatest and this category has a built in replacement timeline. Nothing is over when people have no indenting to keep the devices longer.
    Techdelirios
    • Exactly.

      @Techdelirios

      Thanks for logic.
      Bruizer