The most important sentence in this InformationWeek story about Android 1.5, aka Cupcake, is near the bottom. It's not the writer's fault, since his main goal was to inform about the Android 1.5 firmware upgrade, not comment on the current dynamic in the smartphone sector. In describing the significant improvements in the new version of the operating system, Martin Perez concluded:
The firmware update is a clear signal that the smartphone segment is shifting from a device-oriented market to a software-oriented one.
That's significant. We are still in an era in which exciting new devices materialize on a fairly consistent basis. The tide is slowly starting to turn, however. The result will be that the physical device universe will stabilize and the main battleground will move more fully to operating systems and applications.
The smartphone sector isn't the only one that is the object of competition. The story assesses whether Linux, Android or Windows is best for the suddenly popular form factor. The list of variables includes functionality, battery life and, of course, price. More specifically, the piece gauges reaction to an earlier story about the Skytone Alpha 680. The assumption-challenged by a source quoted in the piece-was that it was the first netbook using Android.
This is a fascinating age of multiples: Multiple form factors, multiple operating systems, multiple sources of applications. In the big picture, the next few years will be a winnowing out process in which some elements will disappear and others gradually will be consigned to appropriate niches.