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Leader: A skin spat or OS X's new dawn?

Mobile makeover
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

Mobile makeover

Apple has once again put its lawyers to work - this time over a website that had posted a link showing users how to put a skin of the iPhone's OS X icons onto their Windows mobile.

Apple has a history of being heavy-handed over its intellectual property and, as per usual, the blogosphere and assorted web pundits alike have once again criticised the Mac maker's behaviour. Mobile operating systems - Symbian, Linux, Windows alike - thrive on coders' experiments and third-party apps, they argue.

You can't really blame Apple for its desire to keep its smartly designed icons out of the clunkier clutches of Windows phones.

But scuffling over the graphics is dodging a more important point. While the simple creation of an iPhone skin might not seem like an issue that would worry the might of Apple, it could be the harbinger of something much more significant for Jobs and co.

Why? The iPhone itself is not a revolutionary device - it doesn't have 3G, the camera's distinctly average and it's a very expensive bunny. One major advantage though is that it runs OS X.

Although silicon.com has yet to have a look at an iPhone, we'd bet as smart phone operating systems go, there's much to recommend the mobile OS X. Assuming it follows its desktop counterpart, it should be an intuitive, well thought-out and, arguably, more secure than other available systems.

While the iPhone is not for everyone, running OS X in the shell of a Windows smart phone - or, for that matter, a Nokia running Symbian - would be the best of both worlds.

Of course, it's unlikely to happen. Apple has historically vehemently resisted running its software on other companies' gear and there's no reason to expect things will be different in the mobile realm.

That's not to say hackers won't try, as they have with transferring Apple software to Windows hardware. And Apple will step in and stop them, as they have with the desktop.

Whether that is a wise move is up for debate. There will soon be a billion mobile handsets sold per year, around four times the amount of PCs, and Apple's pricing strategy will ensure the iPhone is likely to be a very small part of that market.

Licensing OS X to other manufacturers could, however, play to Apple's strengths and could lead to the Mac maker shifting vast numbers of units. It could be time for Cupertino to set aside its addiction to brand at all costs and pretty hardware and embrace a new dawn as a box shifter.

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