Mobile Operating Systems

Yesterday, Google introduced its long-awaited touch-screen phone, called the Nexus One.  This long-awaited new device/announcement is driving some chatter about the future of the Mobile OS world.  Much of the chatter is around pricing (to carriers), revenue model, and market share.  Google is effectively paying carriers to sell it's phone (platform) with the intent to generate revenues from search down the road.  That's a substantially different approach than Apple took with the iPhone.

Rather than re-hashing all the ins & outs of Apple versus Google, Bill Gurley does a good job here.

But, the question to ponder is whether the market will evolve as Macintosh and Windows did or whether Apple will hold ground & continue to grow. Will, over time, the Mobile OS world sustain multiple providers or will we end up in a world where one OS dominates market share?

Is there a developer, application, and user network effect in the mobile world? Any kind of network effect could impact this outcome uniquely.

On the face of things, it would seem to me that Google is taking a page from the Microsoft Windows playbook and Apple is taking a page from, well, the, uh, not so successful Apple Macintosh playbook.

It could also just be that the Mobile OS world can end up looking very much like the video game console industry, with three players (Microsoft XBox, Sony PlayStation, & Nintendo Wii) today equally vying for market share along with several other players (Sega, Atari, 3DO, NEC, RCA, etc) making waves here & there.

What about RIM, Nokia, Motorola, and Symbian in this above discussion? And, dare I say, Palm?  Is it sound to simply assume that these players are out of the running?

Although more free market examples would imply a standard Google & Microsoft analogy, only time will tell how the Mobile OS world evolves differently.  As mobile applications become more complex, 3G connectivity becomes more pervasive, and devices become more powerful, the Mobile OS landscape will also become more expensive to compete in.  For now, though, my guess is that it's still pretty early to start predicting the next Windows.
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