It’s Not That Hard To Write a Smartphone Operating System!

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It’s easier to write a mobile operating system than we’ve been led to believe, says Steve Brazier – and some of them will hit netbooks

The competition between smartphones and netbooks is all about companies crossing the gap between two industries, Steve Brazier of Canalys said in the first part of this interview. This time round, he looks at the contenders and concludes that the issue must be business models, not technology.

“The four leading companies in smartphones, Apple, RIM, Palm and Nokia, have all basically developed their own operating system,” said Brazier, speaking to eWEEK Europe in the run-up to the Canalys Mobility Forum in November. “I would conclude that it is not all that difficult to build an operating system – particularly as Palm has done so very well, on very limited resources.”

Microsoft – a (rich) lame duck

Which makes his feelings about Microsoft’s Windows Mobile sound even more pointed.

“Windows Mobile has performed poorly and innovation has been slow,” he pointed out. “HP and others have committed heavily to it, on the assumption that Microsoft will get there in the end. But success is looking further away, and more unlikely.”

Even Microsoft’s decision to rebrand the struggling Windows Mobile OS, yet again, this time as Windows Phone, won’t make a huge difference, he expects.

Will Microsoft dump Windows Mobile eventually? “Microsoft can afford to do what it wants,” said Brazier. “It’s a question of strategy and commitment.”
How hard is it to develop an operating system?

But he doesn’t expect it to go away. Given the ease with which rivals have come up with better operating systems, Microsoft’s problem is not technical, but management he says: “The challenge to produce a world-class smartphone operating system doesn’t seem that difficult in terms of the resources Microsoft has.”

Palm’s Pre – a renaissance

The UK is currently excited by the final arrival of Pre, the much-loved phone from a company which many had given up for lost. Brazier is enthusiastic: “Look at what Pre has done for Palm, look at the share price,” he said. “It is not selling at iPhone levels, but there are many companies that will be envious. I think it will sell pretty well in the UK as well.”

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RIM repositions

RIM, too, has done a better job of repositioning itself than people might have expected, moving from its home territory in business devices into consumer smartphones. “If you want to compete against Apple you can’t compete on the sexiest phones, but you can compete on being more environmentally friendly, having features like replaceable batteries, and most importantly, you can compete on price.”

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