As the smartphone and mobile operating system market becomes increasingly complex, segmentation will give rise to new opportunities for players across the value chain. Guy Daniels reports
A new research report from Informa Telecoms & Media aims to create segmentation in the smartphone and mobile operating system market, and thereby identify new opportunities in targeting various segments and price tiers. The authors say such segmentation has led to the implementation of a variety of strategies from players across the value chain, which is reflected in the market positioning of the different operating system platform suppliers.
Taking Android as an example, the report analyses the role of Google in the development and implementation of the OS. It says that whilst Android is fully open from an applications-development perspective, the OS upgrade cycles are highly governed by Google. OEMs can add extra features at the UI and, to certain extent, to the application layer, but they have only a little flexibility to remove core features. For example, Google mandates the use of closed-source Google apps such as Android Marketplace (now Play) and navigation.
According to authors David McQueen and Malik Saadi, both principal analysts at Informa, the challenge for device manufacturers is to maintain and build differentiated platforms based on forked versions of the Android code.
Although this is often costly, time-consuming and delays time-to-market for new products, they say the benefits outweigh the negatives:
“Although the level of control that Google has over the Android ecosystem could be seen as a disadvantage, it actually represents one of Android’s main strengths because the cost of innovation is borne largely by Google; the thorough and intense contribution by Google to the Android platform enables this OS to be highly-featured and offer a high performance.”
The report also asks whether or not there is a place for Linux in the mobile market. Despite some interest from a variety of companies in the past five years (including LiMo, Maemo, Moblin, ALP, MeeGo and Tizen), no single platform has managed to attract sufficient interest from the industry.
For a time, MeeGo looked the best bet. The initiative was announced in early 2010 when Nokia and Intel joined forces in an attempt to compete against Android and iOS. The report suggests it failed mainly because of industry fears that Nokia would control the ecosystem and hence the future of the new OS. Also, it claims that MeeGo had a difficult development environment, as it was required to support both ARM and x86 architectures.
Intel has since moved on, and has joined with Samsung to develop Tizen – a standards-based platform targeted at multiple device categories, including smartphones, tablets, netbooks, in-vehicle infotainment devices and smart TVs.
That leaves Nokia to pick up the MeeGo pieces and use it – or not – as part of its future developments. Despite a one-off launch of the N9 last year, it looks like MeeGo will simply be used as part of Nokia’s R&D efforts:
“Nokia has decided to keep MeeGo as a research platform (codenamed Hartman) for future innovation that could be used to inspire development of other platforms including Windows Phone and Symbian. The next-generation Symbian (codenamed Carla) will also be influenced by the MeeGo, mainly in the appearance of the UI – the soft buttons, the soft-switches and the notification dialogs all look the same as those developed under MeeGo.”
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