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Thoughts on Thick

4:40 PM -- As I noted last time, I have mixed feelings about Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)’s choice of a Great Big OS for the iPhone. Operating systems have become so bloated that we spend a lot of time learning to use them efficiently and support them via updates; and complexity leads to, well, more complexity. Loading apps on a phone might also be a real good way to increase total cost of ownership. Besides, I’m a thin-client/Web-services kind of guy who thinks that ubiquitous wireless networks will eventually lead to the elimination of redundant data and that horror of horrors, synchronization.

But I am clearly in the minority here, at least at present, and the announcement of the iPhone, I think, will lead to a rash of imitators over the next year. One can almost smell the kerosene lamps running 27/7 in Taiwan, China, and Silicon Valley. Of course, no one else has access to OS X, so a pure clone is out of the question. There’s always LINUX (yawn; a derivative of the best OS ever developed to power a central office switch), but Symbian and Windows Mobile are no longer going to cut it -- again, if one believes in thick. Java? Coulda beena contenda, but no more. And while I like the bare-metal browser idea, that’s no longer as likely as well (but it will return someday, I’m sure).

The choice of OS X might have been a matter of expediency for Apple, great marketing, or both. But there is in fact a competitor that just might really be competitive, and that’s the Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC). Remember these? They’ve gone nowhere -- too expensive, and poorly differentiated from XP, Vista, or whatever Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) is these days calling their bloated monstrosity of an OS running on notebooks and tablets. But a little work, I think, and UMPC might form the basis for a competitive line of smartphones. Still a clunky OS, to be sure, but competitive. (See Microsoft Goes 'Ultra Mobile'.)

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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