Device operating systems

OS Watch: The Battle for OS Dominance

There have been some mixed signals lately about which mobile operating systems are best poised for growth on smartphones.

Analyst firm IDC says that, despite its slow start, Windows Phone will overtake Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) to command the second-largest market share behind Android by 2016. But, if you ask the developers, the ones actually building for the different OSs, Apple is still the favorite, by far.

IDC believes that Android's growth will hit its peak and adjust down from 61 percent market share to 52 percent by 2016. During that time, Windows Phone will just continue to grow to 19.2 percent, just barely beating out Apple's 19 percent, in the same timeframe. If you believe IDC, that means Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s fledging OS will grow at a rate of 46.2 percent a year over the next four years, while Apple stagnates, based on its single device sales.

But, apps analytics firm flurry Inc. 's recent analysis found that when it comes to developer support, at least, Apple remains king. For every 10 apps that developers are building, around seven are made for iOS compared to the three made for Android. That's due in large part to the fact that for every US$1 earned on Apple, only 24 cents is earned on Android. Meanwhile Windows Phone is still in the growth process for mobile apps, just recently topping 100,000 apps.

In other mobile OS news:

  • Google beefs up its maps: Ahead of its developers conference, we know that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is upping the ante on at least one Android OS feature: maps. Now that Apple is rumored to be abandoning Google Maps on iOS 6, Google is coming up with some improvements to keep its software on the map (bad pun intended). The new features it has introduced this week include offline use, so that the mapping can be used without a network connection, 3-D content, including city views from a plane, and expanded street views.

  • RIM borrows for BlackBerry 10: BlackBerry is hedging its bets on BlackBerry 10, and developers so far seem impressed with the OS. But now The Wall Street Journal is pointing out another potential stumbling block for the beleaguered BlackBerry maker -- it's most exciting features come from companies it has acquired or licensed technology from. Sure, a lot of handset makers do this, but The WSJ reports that RIM is racing to sew together all the different parts from companies across the globe in time for its fall launch. A RIM spokeswoman assures the site that the BlackBerry 10 will be "uniquely BlackBerry," and its key ingredient is its OS, which ironically is based on technology from QNX, a company it acquired in 2010. (See BlackBerry 10: For the Data & Time Crunched.)
  • The webOS postmortem: The fall of HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ)'s webOS happened a lot quicker than the rise of its predecessor Palm, but the entire lifecycle of the OS lasted only 31 months. The Verge chronicles the tumultuous life of the OS in an eye-opening report this week, featuring interviews with present and past employees, timelines, video and phones from Palm's past. Check out the full coverage here.

  • MetroPCS brings the cost of 4G down: Cricket Communications Inc. may have gotten the iPhone this week, but MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) can now lay claim to its cheapest Long Term Evolution (LTE) smartphone yet, the Android-based Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. Activa for $149. The operator will begin offering the device, its fifth LTE smartphone and Huawei's first LTE phone for the market, today. (See Cricket's iPhone Leap of Faith, Time for a 4G Price War Already? and MetroPCS: $100 LTE Smartphones in 2012?)

    — Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

  • sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:30:43 PM
    re: OS Watch: The Battle for OS Dominance

    Apple and Google both have their developers' confererences this month, so it'll be interesting/easy to see how they stack up. Any expectations for either?

    Flook 12/5/2012 | 5:30:38 PM
    re: OS Watch: The Battle for OS Dominance

    The IDC numbers are interesting, but I wonder what their assumptions are that led them to make those market projections about Windows phones. Frankly, I am very skeptical about these IDC forecasts that look ahead 3-4 years at a very dynamic market--a market very different from, say, forecasting Ethernet or router markets. But I could be wrong, and IDC right--guess we'll know in a few years.

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