Upstart mobile platforms must find new markets

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
24 Aug 2011



Optimists are arguing that, should Google's Motorola purchase open up cracks in the Android base, the beneficiaries could be the second rung mobile platforms, notably those of Microsoft, RIM, HP and Intel MeeGo.

The case for WP7 has some credibility, given that broad OEM support does exist, even if most partners currently treat the OS as a second string. But developers and consumers still flock together, and any weakening of Android will just strengthen the powerful, namely Apple, rather than creating a sudden conversion to minor platforms.


Samsung Bada could be a limited exception, given the company's market presence and ability to drive a technology, but the same is not true of QNX, WebOS or MeeGo. All these are marginal and unproven players with many technical strengths, but they need to find themselves a new niche, not hope to pick up smartphone fallout from Android.


RIM's problem is different from those of the other contenders because it has a huge smartphone base to defend, and needs to accomplish the difficult task of converting it to an untried new OS at the same time as losing market share. This is a trick that Palm and arguably Nokia, with open source Symbian, failed to pull off (though Nokia is having another go with WP7).


The other players in this pack, WebOS and MeeGo, are controlled by vendors which have repeatedly failed to gain significant mobile presence, despite huge power in PCs. They regard tablets and other emerging form factors like cloudbooks as the way to reassert their influence and reduce the influence of handset specialists and software houses over the mobile web agenda.


Targeting cloud devices makes sense, although Google has got there first with Chrome OS. But at least this is a new segment where the market is wide open and where Apple is not currently playing. The dilemma is whether to attack the new world with a new software platform, optimized for the task but untried, or whether to adapt a more established system for the job.


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