Is there room for more than 3 OSs in Mobile?
Gary Kovacs, CEO Mozilla wants a piece of the action in enabling the next 2 billion people graduate to the internet. Thus the Firefox OS. Over the last couple of weeks there have been increasing number of claims to divergence in the Mobile OS space- Blackberry 10, Tizen, Ubuntu and now Mozilla. Additionally Samsung is shutting off Bada and HP is selling off WebOS (to LG).
1. Android being the 70% market leader is working on economies of scale and scope – spreading the open platform across multiple domains – TV, Project Glass, Set Top Boxes, Refridgerators, Cars and more. Thus Android is emerging as the truly “connected OS” in the age of convergence
2. Apple still rules as the king of experience and if the experiments in India are replicated across emerging nations – and if the low cost iPhone is in works – Apple will multiply its market share in the mid range ($200) segment in the emerging nations.
3. Historically, OSs have largely oligopolistic/monopolistic in nature. Windows has ruled the PC wave and Android/iOS share the spoils in Mobile devices (Smartphones and Tablets). Even in the feature phone category – Symbian ruled the roost before the advent of Smartphones.
4.While the promise of a diversified OS experience and OS fatigue is a promised land – most of the experiments in this field have returned without encouraging results. (The Palm and HP experience with WebOS and the Samsung experience with home grown Bada being key examples)
5. Even a Goliath like Microsoft is unable to turn the RT platform with a reasonably decent Windows8 experience. Currently all it has is just a toe-hold in the industry even with a Office monopoly out there.
6. Operators – the key market facing entities in the telecom eco-system support the concept of multi OS but the consumer ask is converging to 2 or maximum of 3 OSs. Apple, Android and Blackberry/Windows take those spaces.
7. OEMs and Developers on the other hand would like to be working on 2/3 OSs – OEMs get their economies of scale and Developers have lesser customization requirements for their apps (Agree that HTML5 may change a bit of this)
There’s yet another promise of a light OS with cloud support supported by HTML5 – but even that experience is far from mainstream currently. Many of the fledgeling OSs plan to ride the HTMl5 wave. However, HTML5 and its features are also key to Android and Apple’s iOS – all the more relevant with over 600K apps each.
All these factors put together- my feeling is that there isn’t much room for multi-OS play. I had love to be proven wrong such as the way Windows explorer ceded the browser space to Chrome, Safari and Mozilla.
So to answer Mr.Kovacs narrative – “Apple and Google have led the way in the smartphone market but can’t cover the whole thing- it (is) impossible to understand how 3, 4, 5, or 6 billion people are going to get their diverse needs satisfied by one or two or five companies, no matter how delicious those companies are… Is the farmer in the Indian countryside going to have the same needs and requirements as a lawyer sitting in New York?”
Yes, Mr.Kovacs- there is very limited need divergence in the age of convergence- and then there is scale!