One mobile OS to rule us all ... or many?

One mobile OS to rule us all ... or many?

Summary: As Microsoft prepares to enter the ferociously competitive mobile market with the Windows Phone 7 platform, will we end up in a situation where one mobile OS will rule us all ... or have the monolithic days of "one size fits all" thinking gone forever?


As Microsoft prepares to enter the ferociously competitive mobile market with the Windows Phone 7 platform, will we end up in a situation where one mobile OS will rule us all ... or have the monolithic days of "one size fits all" thinking gone forever?

Yesterday Joe Wilcox of Betanews asked whether IDC and Gartner mobile OS forecasts can be trusted. Personally, I agree with Wilcox, they can't, but I'm always more interested in general trends that I am the specific numbers involved. Basically IDC and Gartner agree on many points - that Symbian, RIM (BlackBerry), and iOS are on the decline, while Android and the collective "Others" are on the up. The only point where IDC and Gartner disagree over is what Microsoft will do once Windows Phone 7 hits. IDC guesses predicts a small rise by 2014, while Gartner believes Microsoft will enjoy a good increase in unit sales, but lose a lot of ground in terms of market share.

When we think of smartphones it's easy to think that the entire market is dominated by Apple and the iPhone. This is because when it comes to the iOS smartphone platform, there is only one handset - the iPhone. Other OSes are represented by many devices - there's no one monolithic device representing Symbian or RIM or Android.

Note: Technically, what I've said above is not entirely accurate - iOS is on the iPhone and the iPod touch - but for the purposes of our discussion we can think of iOS as being represented by just the iPhone.

So, is there room for a new player like Microsoft to make any kind of splash in the mobile market? Well, it's a safe bet to say yes. After all, the smartphone market is growing at a frenzied pace, and since Microsoft will leverage other OEMs to make (and in many ways market) the handsets, it isn't trying to break in on one front like Apple did with the "one maker, one carrier" approach.

But ...

I think that it's a fair bet to say that Microsoft has a tough road ahead. When Apple entered into the market with the iPhone things were a lot more stagnant and complacent than they are now, so hitting the big numbers will be challenging. Sure, Microsoft has deep pockets to throw plenty of ad dollars at the problem, but that can only go so far. Microsoft's previous mobile platform - Windows Mobile - wasn't particularly well known outside of a select niche. Microsoft is going to have a hard time convincing buyers that they should choose Windows Phone 7 over Android, RIM, Symbian or iOS. What differentiates Windows Phone 7 from the other player? What differentiates the different Windows Phone 7 handsets from each other (after all, there will be several OEMs clambering for attention)?

One thing I think we're all agreed on - Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 is a long, log way off from being the one mobile OS to rule us all, and probably never will be.

So, who's waiting for a Windows Phone 7 handset?

Topics: Software, CXO, Smartphones, Operating Systems, Mobility, Mobile OS, Microsoft, IT Priorities, Hardware, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Windows Mobile used to be #2

    "Windows Mobile - wasn?t particularly well known outside of a select niche."

    Wasn't it number 2 in global smartphone market share a few years ago, before the iPhone was released? It's still number 2 in some countries:
    • yes

      and the same company that in 2006 predicted that windows mobile will attract the most developers and will rule the world (you guessed it: gartner) now thinks that android will be no 1 or 2 and the iphone will decline.

      you gotta love that. and the fact that bloggers don't even do some basic research to put these laughable "predictions" into the context of the former reliability of these market "research / tarot cards" companies.
      banned from zdnet
      • RE: One mobile OS to rule us all ... or many?

        Not a geek, Isn't windows the only system that requires defragging ? (except wince). Don't the solidstate drives die quickly when they are defragged ? or am I mistaken ?
      • RE: One mobile OS to rule us all ... or many?

        Why oh why do the unenlightened always end a branch? sorry, banned from zdnet


        No, defragging enhances the performance of all mechanical drives. It's simply that other OS's and newer versions of Windows quietly move the files about in the background rather than saving it up for an annual multi-hour effort. Not even NCQ can completely offset the performance loss from non-sequential read/writes.

        SSDs don't die quickly at all. Even the crappy ones they tested here had theoretical MTBFs, because under the relentless testing we applied, they didn't fail in a reasonable time period. Typically, the numbers they use to derive MTBF on those things is derived from heat aging and other tricks to stress the hell out of them. However, if you don't do refresh the cells, they slow way the hell down, so in fact, the opposite is true. They're excessively refreshed in Windows 7 to optimize performance.
    • Windows Phone market share is crashing

      Windows Mobile used to have 27% of the market. Now, according to Gartner, it has plummeted to just 5.8%.

      Gartner predicts that by 2014, the combined Windows Mobile + Windows Phone 7 share will fall even further, to 3.9% of the market.

      In other words, Windows Phone 7 will fail.
  • agh burzum-ishi krimpatul

  • RE: One mobile OS to rule us all ... or many?

    [Microsoft is going to have a hard time convincing buyers that they should choose Windows Phone 7 over Android, RIM, Symbian or iOS. What differentiates Windows Phone 7 from the other player?]

    Would you care to explain what differentiates android from iphone, other than it is based on linux?
    • I prevents...


      Jobs from creating the new MS. And to me that is HUGELY important.
      • RE: One mobile OS to rule us all ... or many?

        @Economister But its ok for google to be the next MS??
      • So far...


        Google has not asked for a dime from me, while MS seem to want money regularly. That is a HUGE difference. But to answer your question: no, I don't want any one entity to become the new MS. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupt absolutely. It does not matter whether it is government or business.

        The context of that "conversation" is in itself interesting, because IF there is consensus that we do not want Google to become the new MS, we sure as heck don't want the old MS still being the new MS, which it still is for most intents and purposes. The "kinder, gentler MS" is still MIA AFAIAK.

        And I fully understand that succeeding in business often requires less than palatable decisions/methods. It is just that I prefer not to be one of the "victims". I chose to be just as hard nosed about looking after my self interest as MS, Google and Apple are in looking after theirs. We need more consumers with that attitude. Corporate behavior would change for sure, but consumers tend to be sheep.

        Many years ago I bought a defective GE product and they refused to replace it. To this day have have NEVER bought another GE product, and probably never will. I know it does not matter much to GE, but it is an important principle to me.
    • RE: One mobile OS to rule us all ... or many?

      Android has integrated Google spyware. IOS does not. There are other differences, but that is the most important.
      • Actually it is not integrated


        You can have a perfect running Android system without any Google programs whatsoever (I'll cite the Nook as a non-rooted example, but most rooted images ship sans Google apps as well). You cannot have a running iOS system without Apple programs, nor can you use any app without Apple's approval, unless you want to void your warranty.
        Michael Kelly
      • RE: One mobile OS to rule us all ... or many?

        @Michael Kelly But in order to have an Android handset free of the Google spyware and apps does it not have to be rooted? I doubt that any carrier or Google will sell an Android handset without their crapware on it. It's my understanding that rooting an Android handset is the same thing as jailbreaking an iPhone or baking a custom ROM for WM, or installing a hybrid OS for BB, now ROM baking and running a hybrid OS will void warranties for WM and BB respectively but does rooting also void the warranty? I'm curious because I have not dug that deeply into Android because it's not a platform I use or have used while I have used WM and use iOS and BB now.
  • I think MS will do well

    It seems that all MS has to do to convince people about Windows Phone 7 (WP7) is give them handsets to play with. As long as MS takes nothing for granted, I believe it can come close to repeating on mobile phones, what it did with the PC. MS seems to be doing a good job rallying developers, and is expected to spend good money on advertising. The advantage of the iPhone approach, is that Apple is able to make lots of money from the sale of a relatively small amount of phones. MS' (and also Google's) approach scales much better. With a combination of licensing fees; app store, services, and advertising revenue, MS could make a considerable amount of money from mobile phones. (I think within 3 years, MS should raise its licensing fee to at least $40/copy. OEMs, if necessary, could easily pass this cost on to consumers without them noticing it much, since the cost of the phone is spread out over monthly payments.)

    If all goes well, in about 5 years, MS could be making more money than Apple from mobile phones, and MS could sideline Google through rapid innovation and better management of developers and its ecosystem. MS should be able to offer developers a marketplace that spans mobile phones and PCs. The PC side of things includes tablets, laptops, desktops, MS Surface implementations, as wall sized screens. Therefore MS could easily win developer mindshare by making available a much larger market than either Apple or Google could provide. Also MS' build once, optimize everywhere approach to software development, allows developers to build applications that target MS' huge market, with relatively little effort.
    P. Douglas
    • more money

      @P. Douglas
      even if they could manage to get an $10 licensing fee from handset makers (which is highly unlikely, given that android is free) with apple selling probably 50 million iphones next year at $600 a pop (and probably double of that number in 5 years), msft would have to sell 3 billion (!) licenses a year to make the same money as apple. at $40 (which is absolutely ridiculous, no one will ever pay that license fee), they still would have to sell 800 million licenses.

      not possible. only in your dreams.
      banned from zdnet
      • I believe it's possible

        @banned from zdnet,

        I believe MS now licenses WP7 for $15/copy. If MS manages to dominate the market, and sell more phones than anyone else in 3 years, then I'm sure OEMs could live with paying $25/copy extra - particularly when they could pass the costs on to consumers, who would barely notice the increase.

        According to <a href=>this article</a>, the average iPhone user downloads an average of 1.8 paid apps per month. According to <a href=>this article</a>, the average price of an iPhone paid app in the US is about $2.43. That means in a year, the average iPhone user spends about 1.8 x 2.43 x 12 = $52.49 on apps. If MS could perform similarly with its app store, it could earn 30 / 100 x $52.49 = $15.75 per user on app sales. Also I believe MS should be able to make a profit of at least $1 per user per year from Zune and its other services. Therefore it is conceivable that MS could make $40 + $15 + $1 = $56 from the 1st year of a phone sale - after 3 years. If we assume that people keep their smartphones for an average of 2 years, then the average revenue MS can obtain is about $40 + ($15 + $1) x 2 = $72 per phone - obtained over the course of 2 years.

        According <a href=>this article</a>, Apple makes about $134 profit on each iPhone. This means that if MS can sell at least twice as many phones as the iPhone (at about $72/phone), it could actually make more money than Apple. (The above assumes MS does a good job containing costs and makes decent money from services, such that its actual profit, roughly equals the above projected revenue.)
        P. Douglas
  • The OS the gives the phone away free with contact

    can capture the entire market. With the economy in such a sad state, how can anyone insist on a $200+ phone, unless it is for business? A free great smartphone would, able to do what the others brag about, could take center stage and gram large market share.
    • Sure, you can have a free phone


      The carriers will just add $10 per month to you two year contract.

      Until I can get an unlocked "world" smart phone for around $200 and can go to the carrier of my choice, I am not interested. I don't really need a smart phone. If the price is right I will buy one, but I am not interested in shelling out close to $100/month, unless it is a deductible business expense and I really need one. "Cool" just doesn't cut it for me.
      • RE: One mobile OS to rule us all ... or many?


        I did not "need" a smart phone either. But, since I got my iPhone two years ago, I have found a dozen good uses for it. Most of them are for quick business information, but also for travel info. Have no time for games or other waste of time. The iPhone has paid for itself several times over.

        So, to all you Apple critics, thank Apple for creating the category and making it useful
      • I agree


        I appreciate Apple creating new successful product categories and they deserve to make a buck. If your iPhone helps your business, great, you can justify it.

        Being retired I cannot. Can I afford $500 for an iPhone or Android phone? Yes I can. Can I justify it? No, I cannot.

        I expect to do extensive traveling in Europe in a year's time. By then I will acquire a world phone that I can take to most European carriers and get a SIM card and a plan of some sort. This strikes me as very convenient. Since this is not the situation in North America, I have little interest in purchasing a smart phone there. As a matter of fact, I am inclined to punish North American carriers to the extent I can for their very consumer unfriendly approach. I think they chose different technologies for the express purpose of trying to lock consumers in, and that offends me. And don't get me started on the so called HW subsidy. It is a total crock.

        I can also see myself buying a tablet for browsing and gaming/media consumption, but I am only willing to spend about $200. For that, all I need is Wi-Fi. The reason I will probably not buy Apple products, is again the lock in/walled garden. I REALLY resent anyone trying to control me for their benefit. That is why I will probably end up with Linux on my desktop some day. I like to have total control over my HW.