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

Android’s price advantage

The other player to talk about is Google’s Android: “That has taken us by surprise,” said Brazier. “It’s done better than we would have expected. ” Google has done a much better job of entering the phone world than Microsoft, in particular by allowing a lot of customisation, said Brazier: “One Android phone does not look like another – and if you can differentiate well, you can retain margin and value.”

It’s got another advantage too: “It’s free.”

Everyone needs an Appstore

The biggest competitive feature for any smartphone right now is the number of applications in its Appstore – and Apple has a massive lead. But Brazier thinks it’s been over-rated: “I think there is a certain level of apps that you need, but once it gets beyond a certain number, it is irrelevant as a lot of it becomes junk.”

In the end, the appstore may have the opposite effect – eroding the difference between platforms, he said, as developers make up for any gaps in the operating system: “It is a pain for application developers to write to all these operating systems, but if there’s a million units out there, they will start.”

Changes on the netbook

Despite the resistance to change from Microsoft and Intel, there could be changes in netbooks, said Barzier. In particular, there could be new operating systems, alongside Android, which Acer is promising: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see other OSs appearing on PCs, maybe even ones we haven’t yet heard of.”

Most of these will be based on Linux at some level, of course, and they may take off more quickly in consumer markets, or where netbooks are designed for specific tasks, he said – despite the fact that for now, Microsoft has practically eliminated Linux from today’s netbook market.

“Microsoft saw off the short term threat, but it took a significant hit to its revenue, and for the first time it had to use price as a differentiator,” he said. “Microsoft was given an ultimatum: if you don’t reduce your prices we are going with Linux.”

Microsoft will push Windows 7 as a netbook operating system, but at the same time, Apple is becoming more established and visible, making it obvious to consumers that a choice is possible: “That’s another big risk coming up for Microsoft.”

In Part 1 of this interview, Brazier looked at the prospects for Nokia in the PC market. The Canalys Mobility Forum is on 17 November, at Heathrow, London.

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