Mobile OS Battles Escalating with Growth of Connected Devices: Report

Apple, Nokia, Palm, BlackBerry, Microsoft and others have spent untold dollars and hours working to make their mobile operating systems the consumer favorite. According to iSuppli, the competition is heating up as mobile OSes are extending to additional devices.

With shipments of smartphones and other wirelessly enabled devices expected to nearly triple 2009's figures by 2014, the battle for mobile operating system dominance is growing as well.
In a March 24 report, iSuppli said that while Apple, Nokia, Palm, Microsoft, BlackBerry and others have sought to make their smartphone mobile operating systems the favorite of consumers and application developers, the challenge is now expanding as the OSes are deployed on additional mobile platforms.
"With wireless carriers supporting more types of devices on their networks, the mobile OS battle now is spreading beyond the smartphone arena and is entering the larger realm of mobile Internet devices (MIDs), a category that includes netbook PCs, portable navigation devices, MP3 players, automotive infotainment systems and Internet access devices," Jagdish Rebello, an iSuppli principal analyst, said in a statement. "With the carriers also supporting multiple OSes, the challenge for developers is to offer application and content that is compelling on multiple platforms."
A current example is Apple's decision to make its iPad, set to arrive April 3, run the iPhone OS. It's understating things to say that many consumers are already comfortable with and dedicated to the OS, and application developers, many without having touched the device, are already creating apps for it.
The availability of SDKs (software development kits) and the energy and resources manufacturers put into courting an application developer community, says iSuppli, point to degree that applications and user interfaces sway consumer purchasing decisions. A front-and-center example has been the challenges Palm has faced, since the June 2009 launch of the Palm Pre, in rallying support behind its new webOS platform.
With the sharing of content and applications among devices increasing, connectivity technologies are also in demand, though present new challenges in themselves.
"While companies are creating tools to allow developers to port applications across multiple platforms, they also face the fact that the challenges applying to content enjoyment also extend to display design," Vinita Jakhanwal, an iSuppli principal analyst, said in a statement. "Displays are usually customized according to the device model and OS specifications. As applications get written for various OSes, the native display resolution support must be customized."
For example, Apple's OS uses a half-VGA pixel format on a 3.5-inch screen, states the report, while Android supports an 800- by 480-pixel format.
Challenges or not, consumer adoption, and shipment numbers, will continue to climb.
According to iSuppli, smartphone shipments will reach 247 million in 2010 and head up to 384 million by 2012 and 497 million by 2014. Non-handset devices, by contrast, will see 111.3 million units ship in 2010 and climb to 184.8 million by 2012 and 238.6 million by 2014 - for a total of 735.6 million connected devices in 2014.
"Displays and display resolutions are a very important piece of user viewing experience and will have a great impact on the success of the device, OS and applications," said Jakhanwal.