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Issue #2003 - 11 (March 2003)
(Updated Mar. 31, 2003)


Does Smart Phones Operating System Matter - Opinion by Jason Brooks (Ziffdavis)

First we let you read this opinion piece by Jason Brooks (Ziffdavis)

Our cell phones are getting smarter, but it's not clear who'll ultimately win the struggle to give handsets their brains. With the 3GSM World Congress, CeBIT and with CTIA just finished, the air is thick with smartphone announcements and releases, and platform diversity seems to be the overall theme.

Sprint has announced plans to ship two Windows-Powered phones - the Samsung i700and the Hitachi G-1000-both of which run Pocket PC Phone Edition, the same flavor of Microsoft's mobile OS that powers the T-Mobile communicator that we reviewed in August. These are two rather attractive PDA/phone hybrids - I'm particularly interested in the thumb-keyboard that graces the G-1000-but both are fairly large, and they'll likely carry large price tags as well. Perhaps more interesting for their smaller size will be Microsoft's more phone-centric devices, like the one that'll be built by Compal.

We've grown accustomed to our phones shrinking in size, and most people won't be willing to sacrifice portability in their handsets in exchange for PDA functionality.

The trouble for Microsoft here, though, is that the big mobile phone players aren't in a hurry to hand control of the smartphone platform space over to Redmond, particularly when they've teamed to develop and push a mobile platform of their own, the Symbian OS. Samsung, which last month joined Ericsson, Matsushita, Motorola, Nokia, Siemens and Sony Ericsson in the Symbian consortium, has announced the Symbian-based SGH D 700, which also carries a digital camera. For now, though, Samsung is hedging its bets with a multi-platform strategy, as the firm is set also to ship the SGH-i500, which will be the first smartphone to ship running Palm's OS 5 mobile platform-and Samsung is planning to ship a Pocket PC-based unit as well.

It's said that consumers don't care which OS their mobile devices run. That may be true, but users do care about the applications that are available for their devices, so choice of platform will be an important consideration, if indirectly. This poses a challenge for Symbian, which enjoys a smaller and less-mature development community than Microsoft or Palm. And, of course, while Palm makes much of its own developer pool, it's in the midst of a major platform migration to the new, ARM-based Palm OS 5. It'll be interesting to see how Motorola fares with its own multi-platform strategy, in which the firm is developing high-end, Symbian-based devices alongside basic and mid-range phones based on Linux and Java, beginning with the A760 handset. The Linux/Java platform option promises to enable smartphone makers to plug into existing hardware and software development resources, while providing these firms with the flexibility to differentiate themselves from competitors that a tightly controlled platform like that from Microsoft doesn't offer. Eventually, a clear leader or leaders will emerge, but for now, the diversity that exists among mobile device platforms should make the road to smartphone maturity an intriguing one. Who'll win the race for mobile platform supremacy? Who'll fade away first?

Source: MobileInfo acknowledges the above opinion piece from Ziffdavis and offers our own advisory
For more information: http://www.ziffdavis.com

MobileInfo Comments and Advisory: While the idea of a single OS for the handset industry is attractive and will help application developers, it will reduce competition and innovation. Voice-centric phones will continue to use Symbian. Jason is right in pointing out that consumers do not care which OS is inside their mobile devices. It is the application and functionality that matters. If it is worthwhile and consumers want it, programmers will always find a way to provide that functionality under Symbian, Palm OS and Microsoft Smartphone platforms. Let there be competition and innovation. Single dominant OS is not in the cards during the next three to five years, we say! 

 Note: This news release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and section 21E of Securities Exchange act of 1934 in USA. Similar provisions exist in other countries. There is no assurance that the stipulated plans of vendors will be implemented. MobileInfo does not warrant the authenticity of the information. Readers should take appropriate caution in developing plans utilizing these products, services and technology architectures.  All trademarks used in this summary are the property of their respective owners.

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