Developing Mobility

The next 12 months could be the staging ground for a battle royale over which mobile operating systems will go forward as the wireless development platforms of future.

It'll be like a cage match for embedded code: Except that many OSs will enter and a few – rather than just one – will leave.

Symbian Ltd. and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) are currently the heavyweights in the mobile operating arena. Vendors and carriers, however, are always looking for ways to attract more developers over to mobile and ways to add new features and capabilities to their phones. This has led to a diversity of operating systems in the market – from BlackBerry 's BlackBerry system, to Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s in-house developments and mobile Linux.

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has just given mobile Linux a shot in the arm by launching a new development platform and its first U.S. phones based on Linux. Motorola, along with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) and others, has also joined LiMo Foundation, which is working on Linux for wireless devices. Smartphone vendor Palm Inc. is also planning to move its operating system to Linux soon. (See Palm's Open Source Hope.)

It is not clear how many developers worldwide are currently au fait with mobile Linux, but more open-source developer platforms will clearly increase the number of people that can work on wireless applications. This is something that's crucial as the lead times for phones and content get more pressurized.

RIM's BlackBerry system and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iPhone will likely be the wildcards in this game of giants. RIM's mobile email system is already wildly popular, and the iPhone is selling well out of the gate, but neither is likely to saturate the market in the way that Nokia has.

There's some indication, however, that Apple is already opening up its OS so that Internet developers can write to it. I suspect this will be one of the trends of the next 12 months – a more open development environment for mobile. I also imagine, however, that the major players won't just sit there and wait, and slightly smaller vendors will need to keep adding new twists to stay ahead of the game.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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