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OS Watch: Device Makers Sound Off

Sarah Thomas
12/10/2010
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Two big conferences this week, spanning Silicon Valley to Paris, provided a lot of fodder, albeit few concrete answers, in the world of operating systems as executives were put in the hotseat.

All Things Digital's D:Dive Into Mobile conference and European Internet event, LeWeb, brought in brass from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Palm Inc. , BlackBerry , and others. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) also stole some spotlight this week with its own event for the Chrome unveiling.

Here's some of the highlights and lowlights from the talks:

  • Frag Watch: Google doesn’t see Chrome, its open-source notebook OS, clashing with Android, its smartphone OS, but they may meet in the middle ground of tablets. This is the territory of the next Android OS release, Honeycomb, but the zippy Chrome OS also seems well-equipped to tackle this product category. If these worlds collided, it could highly fragment and confound things in the competitive tablet space -- unless of course an OS merger is in the offing. Google says it just hasn’t thought that far ahead yet. (See Android vs. Chrome, Google Chrome in Pictures, and Google Notebooks Come With Verizon 3G.)

  • QNX coming to smartphones... maybe: In what was an altogether confusing talk at D:Dive Into Mobile, RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis confirmed that QNX, its OS for the PlayBook, will be coming to smartphones when dual-core processors are available. He said that QNX was designed for low-power, high efficiency devices -- his explanation for why it's not yet in smartphones. But, with more multi-core processors due out next year, the time could be ripe. All in all, Lazaridis seemed just as confused about this as his audience. (See The PlayBook Play-by-Play.)

  • Still no Android for Nokia: Nokia's SVP of design, Marko Ahitsaari, told LeWeb attendees yesterday that Nokia needed "to somehow regain the imagination," in a way that didn’t involve Android. Nokia is instead concentrating on MeeGo, its OS for advanced devices, which will debut on its first device next year. Ahitsaari said the design team is focused on updating the home screen for MeeGo, but not to be more like Android, iOS, or even Symbian.

    Ahitsaari said that touchscreens are too immersive today, and MeeGo will be more about the one-handed, "heads up" experience. He also said adaptive behavior tied to sensors, such as using Ovi Maps data to discern traffic patterns or a final destination, could be in future MeeGo devices.

  • Microsoft happy with undisclosed sales: Back to D:Dive Into Mobile, Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore wouldn't reveal how many Windows Phone 7 devices Microsoft has shipped, only noting that he was happy with the sales. It's too soon to share, he said. He did confirm, however, that the rumored OS overhaul was coming, opening up WP7 devices to Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and Verizon Wireless , who may or may not care since they don’t know how well the phones are doing. (See OS Watch: Samsung, King of Androids.)

  • Palm-sized tablets: HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) is planning an "awesome" tablet based on Palm's webOS, former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein, told D: Dive Into Mobile attendees. [Ed. note: This is presumably the same tablet as the "great" tablet he's mentioned before.] HP acquired Palm to gain a mobile strategy, and Rubinstein said tablets will be an important part of that, as will "several smartphones" that improve upon the Pre 2. (See Palm Plots Beyond Phones.)

    — Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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