State of Mobile Operating Systems

What ultimately makes the mobile space usable is
the operating systems that hardware manufacturers use on them. While
there are more than 4 operating systems out there, there are 4 in
particular that I find intriguing or at least the most talked about in
general. They are the Apple iPhone, Google Android, RIM's Blackberry
and Microsoft's Window Mobile.

Apple
iPhone is generally considered the King of Consumer mobile. It is most
interesting how Apple to the mobile world by storm. Apple's approach to
mobile is to focus on it's area of core strength. It gave users an iPod
that also happened to have a phone on it. Consumers are used to having
an iPod. Apple extended it's features by giving the iPod a really big
screen and then "brainwashing" users that the gestures that they put on
it was the only way of doing things on the mobile and like everything
else Apple does, it worked. While the mobile platform has been around
for  a very long time, Apple is the one that made mobile accepted by
the masses. One of the things that I learned while managing development
of the Zoocasa iPhone app is that it only has very limited memory for
apps – around 20 MBs to be exact. It's hard to see the Apple be able to
run more complex applications on the iPhone at least on this current
version of the hardware. That being said, the iPhone is here to stay
and if all things remaining equal – the iPhone will continue to be the
king of consumer mobile for a long time to come.

Being
the new kid on the block, Google's Android has gotten a lot of buzz for
the platform. I remember looking at screenshots on the internet and
couldn't help but think it to be cartoonish. I quickly lost interest.
However, @elusive_jackal decided that he wanted to get one and I got
the opportunity to play with it and I have to say that I was very
impressed with it. The physical device felt solid and the operating
system felt really solid. Setting it up did take a bit of time as we
had brought in the phone from the US and it was a bit tricky to set it
up. Fortunately, I'm pretty well versed in setting up mobile phones in
Toronto because I reset my phones so often and between @elusive_jackal
and myself, we were able to set up the phone. The platform reminds me a
bit of Ubuntu. For one, it's open-source and the developer community
seems pretty active. It is already the hottest selling phone for
T-Mobile. Like Ubuntu, Android will start off being a "geek" phone
before making it more popular mainstream.

I'm
a bit ambivalent about the Blackberry. I love RIM because it's a
Canadian company but I have to say that I'm completely baffled by it's
continued success in the mobile industry. Blackberry is often
considered the king of the enterprise mobile but up to today, it seems
like a one-trick pony which is push-email via the Blackberry Enterprise
Server. Blackberry has been facing growing pressure in that space with
Microsoft Exchange Server providing Exchange ActiveSync which is
provided for free. Earlier this year, GMail now allows synchronization
through Exchange ActiveSync. It'll be interesting to see how RIM fights
back. I had a Blackberry 8890 for a while for work but I quickly gave
it up because it wasn't stable and couldn't run the apps that I
needed/wanted to. It does messaging well and beyond that it doesn't do
much more than that well. It's starting to be more than just a
messaging platform with introduction of devices like the Storm, Bold
and Javelin along with its version of the App Store called Appworld.
It'll be interesting to see how it fends off Microsoft ang Google which
are gnawing at its own core strength.

The
general consensus with Microsoft is that it missed the boat on mobile
which is a bit unfair. It did unseat Palm as the premier handheld
device but it was never able to build a product that won the hearts and
minds of the general consumer. The other problem with Microsoft is that
it has a really bad rep of releasing unstable phones. The reality is
that Microsoft does not develop platforms and mobile devices are quite
different than desktop devices. Microsoft provides a very rich feature
set for developers and it has a lot of depth and potential as an
operating system. It's also the most enterprise and retail friendly.
Microsoft, under Bill Gates, has always been scrappy. It's proven then
it can take on the major players like Netscape for the browser wars and
Palm for the handheld wars. The big question is will Steve Balmer at
the helm be able to steer Microsoft to green pastures again? Is mobile
even a space that they feel that they want to compete in?

At
the end of the day, the end-user really doesn't care that much about
what operating system they use on the mobile platform. It just needs to
work.