The Advanced Mobile OS World Becomes Even More Interesting

Carl Weinschenk
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Mobile Device Usage Soars with or Without Permission

Get ready to see more stories like those carried today at TNW Mobile and TechCrunch on Aug. 29, which say, respectively, that HTC and Samsung are kicking the tires on HP's webOS. The quote at the heart of TNW Mobile piece, which is from chairperson Cher Wang, is that such a thought has not been dismissed.

Though there seems to be some fuzziness to the accompanying announcements made last month by HP, the company undoubtedly will listen to offers for webOS. The receptivity of the market to the availability of the highly thought-of OS certainly increases in light Google's recent purchase of Motorola Mobility. The rationale is pretty simple: Now that Google will have its own hardware for Android, other users of the OS have a greater need to put a backup plan in place.

While the short-term drama will focus on the fate of webOS, the bigger picture is that the mobile industry is entering a time of operating system uncertainty. Companies are betting billions of dollars and their very futures on smartphones and tablets. The choice of operating systems of course is a vital decision. The fact that Google is acquiring what many will assume is a de facto, most-favored hardware platform is a fundamental shift. It is clear that a wait-and-see attitude won't do. Important decisions must be made before Google even has an opportunity to prove that it won't let the newly acquired products jump the line.

Other changes also abound. Microsoft, as I discussed in a feature posted at Unified Communications Edge on Aug. 23, is accelerating its outreach to webOS developers and is otherwise acting with the urgency appropriate for a company looking at Windows Phone as its last best chance to break into the top tier of mobile players. Microsoft is on the point of releasing Mango, the first major update to Windows Phone.


Google, meanwhile, is set to release another of its confectionary-named operating systems. This one, Ice Cream Sandwich, is vital. The goal is to create a common operating system for smartphones and tablets. This would be a major step, notwithstanding events on the Motorola front.

The bottom line is that two things are happening simultaneously: On one hand, smartphones and tablets both are exploding. On the other, the operating systems that underlie each are in a state of flux.

There will be interesting times ahead. The heavy mobile competition, coupled with the unsettled nature of the operating system landscape, will lead to heightened innovation. The result could be a greater divide between classes of operating systems - between those aimed at businesses and consumers, for instance - more deal-making and other interesting developments.



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