“Mobile OSes, from Google’s Android, to Symbian, to Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile, have been fighting it out for leadership in the burgeoning smart-phone market,” said Jagdish Rebello, Ph.D., senior director and principal analyst for wireless research at iSuppli Corp. “However, with wireless carriers supporting more types of devices on their networks, the mobile OS battle now is spreading beyond the smart-phone arena and is entering the larger realm of Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), a category that includes netbook PCs, Portable Navigation Devices (PNDs), MP3 players, automotive infotainment systems and Internet Access Devices (IADs). With the carriers also supporting multiple OSes, the challenge for developers is to offer application and content that is compelling on multiple platforms.”
The potential market for such content is huge.
Global shipments of smart phones and other wirelessly enabled Internet-connected devices are set to rise to approximately 735.6 million units in 2014, almost three times the projected shipments of 262.7 million in 2009. The attached figure presents iSuppli’s global forecast of wirelessly connected mobile devices.
iSuppli defines mobilized connectable devices as gadgets that have integrated connectivity for Wireless Local Area Network (WLANs), Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks (WMANs) or 3G-or-higher Worldwide Wide Area Networks (WWANs).
Over the past two years, a battle royal has been escalating in the smart-phone operating system arena as industry heavyweights including Nokia, Apple, Microsoft, RIM and Google compete aggressively with one another for market share.
In addition, the availability of Software Development Kits (SDKs) and the active promotion of an energetic application developer community by all of the major OS vendors echoes the fact that applications and device user interface have emerged as critical factors in the customer selection of smart phone devices.
The proliferation of applications for the iPhone and other platforms now has put the spotlight firmly on the importance of high-level OS structure, access to application programming interface, usability and user interactions and behaviors related to the devices.
Today, all of the major OS vendors are working to create an active ecosystem of application developers to create attractive applications for their OS platforms. And all of the handset vendors are working to create customizable, intuitive and intelligent user interfaces with content aggregation functionality for their devices.
OEMs also are preloading popular social network applications on their devices and opening up their own app stores in order to capture a share of the revenue from the sale of applications.
As content and application sharing among multiple devices becomes increasingly important for consumers, connectivity technologies are aggressively penetrating consumer electronics products.
Furthermore, content and application compatibility across different platforms is emerging as a critical differentiator for device manufacturers.
OS vendors are responding to this trend with the adoption of cross-category operating system strategies.
Vendors like Nokia and Google are trying to promote OSes that can be adopted across different hardware platforms. Apple has announced that its highly anticipated iPad will use the same operating system as the iPhone 3G. Microsoft’s latest operating system, WinMo 7, appears to be targeted at several products besides the smart phone.
Porting display trends
“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,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, principal analyst, small/medium displays, for iSuppli. “Displays are usually customized according the device model and OS specifications. As applications get written for various OSes, the native display resolution support must be customized.”
For example, among current smart phones, Apple’s OS uses a half-VGA pixel format on a 3.5-inch screen, while the Android OS supports an 800 by 480-pixel format. However the display size itself can vary.
Features like multitouch displays and zooming also impact display design.
“The biggest challenge will concern porting applications across different device types, Jakhanwal said. “Clearly, the display resolution, number of pixels and display size must be worked out to enable similar viewing experiences of the same applications across multiple device platforms. 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.”
For more information on this area, please visit iSuppli’s Wireless Systems service website. [March 25, 2010]
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