Open platforms to be key for smartphone vendors

Analyst firm Informa says the LiMo Foundation, Google's Android and the Symbian Foundation are the most significant device platforms to emerge in an increasingly competitive market
Written by Sol E. Solomon, Contributor

Openness will become a key criterion for handset vendors as they develop strategies to help them maximise revenues while reducing costs, according to a new report by Informa Telecoms & Media.

In a statement released on Thursday, Informa noted that mobile-operating-system (OS) and application development are already reaping the benefits of open-source components and approaches. The analyst firm said the LiMo Foundation, Google's Android and the Symbian Foundation are the most significant device platforms to emerge in the market.

Gavin Byrne, research analyst at Informa, said in the report: "The smartphone segment is no longer as simple as it was a few years ago. Since early 2007, Symbian, Microsoft, Linux and BlackBerry [platforms] have been joined by Apple's OS X iPhone, Android and, recently, Palm's webOS."

Byrne said the decision to move Symbian to open source is crucial in maintaining its leadership over Android, Linux and Microsoft, in an increasingly competitive market.

In fact, just over 49 percent of smartphones last year were based on the Symbian platform, a drop from 65 percent in 2007, according to Informa. The research house attributed the drop to the poor performance of Nokia's smartphones, which are closely associated with Symbian, as well as the rising popularity of competing platforms including Linux, BlackBerry OS, Microsoft Windows Mobile, OS X iPhone and Android.

Following the release of HTC's third Android phone in February, Byrne had said in a report by news wire AFP: "For a new platform with open source, I am impressed with the momentum growing behind Android."

He added that he expected Symbian to remain dominant in the next five years, but that Android would establish itself as an alternative.

Growing smartphone market
Almost 162 million smartphones were sold in 2008, surpassing notebook sales for the first time, according to Informa data.

This year, due to the global recession, the analyst firm expects the total number of new handsets shipped to fall by 10.1 percent. However, this effect will not be felt equally across all segments.

Byrne explained: "While demand in the mid-tier will fall during 2009, sales of new smartphones will grow over 30 percent to 211.2 million units, driven by innovative new devices and operator subsidies designed to promote mobile data consumption. So, by 2013, almost four in every 10 handsets sold worldwide will be a smartphone."

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