For some time we have been experiencing the age of the smartphone but never before has there been so much on offer regarding smartphone functionality and availability. In the early days of smartphones surfing the web tended to be a slow and frustrating experience, but with the latest generation of smartphones and with 3G and continually improving mobile networks it has become lightening fast.
Although many of the smartphones from different manufacturers are converging in looks and style, possibly taking their cue from Apple’s iPhone, in terms of what is going on inside them they are diverging considerably. This is because the smartphone market has fragmented in terms of operating systems.
Currently there are five major and competing smartphone platforms. These are the iOS which is based on Mac and powers the iPhone; Symbian which is a proprietary operating system developed by Nokia and powers phones such as the Nokia N8; Google’s Android OS which powers phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S and the HTC Desire; the RIM OS which powers Blackberry phones such as the Blackberry Curve and Pearl; and Windows Phone 7. There are also other proprietary operating systems such as the Palm webOS and the Samsung developed Bada.
The big question is whether all these systems can peacefully co-exist or whether there will eventually be winners and losers.
Historically when technology clashed, winners and losers emerged. A classic example was the Betamax and VHS video wars where Betamax, which was the better technology, fell by the wayside. Similarly there was the war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray technologies where HD-DVD was eventually abandoned. Similarly, examples can be found computer operating systems in which Microsoft dominates yet lives almost symbiotically with the smaller Mac OS and the somewhat more geeky Linux.
It is far healthier for the consumer to be able to choose. The problem is that when one organisation becomes dominant, quality tends to suffer. For now all is fine and the current smartphone wars mean that we are served top quality phones at realistic prices, though difficulties might occur in the future if and when the costs of developing and maintaining mobile operating systems become prohibitive.
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