Saturday 22 November 2008

Future of Mobile 08: What's so Smart about Smartphone OSs

Panel discussion chaired by Simon Rockman — Sony Ericsson

This was a rather boring panel discussion: despite Simon’s best attempts to make the panellists squirm, they stayed very tame and non-committal. The best bits was the thinly veiled spatting between Microsoft and Google — but again, this was nothing new…


  • David Wood: Research @ Symbian
  • Olivier Bartholot: Purple Labs
  • Andy Bush: LiMo
  • Rich Miner: Google Mobile
  • James McCarthy: Mobile Comms Business @ Microsoft

Why is your OS the best?

  • Symbian:
    • Paul Otellini’s demo was based on a big server behind the couch + user experience was a bit rubbish
    • More to be done in terms of cooperation & collaboration
    • Defragmenting: removing all UIs but Series60 (UIQ officially dead)
  • Purple Labs:
    • Created in 2001
    • Used to make phones and software, now just software
    • Specialist of Linux on low-tier device — Purple Magic handset
    • Acquired embedded software of OpenWave — including browser, messaging & widget platform
    • Platform is LiMo compliant
    • Acquiring engineers from Sagem + s/w for 2G & 3G phones from TI
    • Hoping to fight fragmentation
  • LiMo:
    • gave a good description of how LiMo works as an organisation, but not how it would be better as an OS
  • Android:
    • Hardware available, but software not available to make it easy to use for customer
    • Software being designed by hardware engineers
    • So Apple was able to embarrass the industry by coming from a software perspective
    • Google has struggled with building MIDP apps that work on lots of devices
    • Decided to build their own OS — led Android as chief design architects
      • Not as a committee
  • Windows Mobile:
    • Started in B2B, syncing PDAs to PCs, then added radio
    • “4 out of 5 top global OEMs signed to run Windows Mobile”
      • though they don’t necessarily run them on their major devices…
    • Of the people on this panel, we’re the only ones with a single entity controlling the architecture
      • spreading FUD as usual… Symbian now totally controlled by Nokia

How does your business model work?

  • Android:
    • Google has no direct business model with platform
    • Also have 4 out of 5 top OEMs working on Android handsets :-)
    • Believe that it’s fundamentally important to industry that no one company owns the platform
    • Don’t mind playing on a level playing field, but don’t like someone else owning the platform and having an advantage
      • Want to have powerful devices connected over broadband
    • Focussed on delight & delivering value to consumer
      • Then give useful ads based on understanding of context
      • Not rushing to integrate ads right now
    • Other platforms manage to bloat themselves…
      • Android designed to go downmarket quite easily
      • Runs fine on 200MHz (used this speed chips in design process)
    • Within in next 18mths most devices will be able to support Android
      • Simon Rockman disagrees — still going to be b&w, low end devices in sub $50 market
      • Rich Miner thinks that in developing economies with phone as first screen, there will be big advantages and incentives to have higher feature phones pushed into market
      • I tend to agree with Rich — it’s worth the while of the operators to subsidise handsets in developing countries, so that they get the revenue of usage. Vodafone seems to be going this way already.
  • Purple:
    • Latin America buying handsets at $25 but voice only
    • Is a space for low $100 handset
  • LiMo:
    • Companies pay for membership fees
    • Can share patents within IP Safe Harbour

Are you disappointed that people just rebadging HTC devices? (to Microsoft)

  • Now seeing a lot of success with Samsung too
  • Sony Ericsson X1 also made by HTC
  • Also lots of ruggedized PDAs
  • James not unsettled that HTC adopting Android
    • I think he should be!

Why can Google bring in developers better than Microsoft?

  • Always an advantage to start with a clean slate…
  • Android also based on a lot of existing pieces

Motorola stopping Symbian and going to Android…

  • David Wood: manufacturers currently hedging their bets

What about runtime environments?

  • Google: 3rd party dev based on managed code
    • Also browser in the core — can make AJAXy apps using this
    • No reason why there can’t be other runtime environments
    • Believe that native code is best way to write apps
  • Microsoft: Also believe that native is best
    • If we need other runtime environments to support customers then will provide them
  • Symbian:
    • Development often needs to get to native, so need to solve this problem anyway

What makes a smartphone smart?

  • Symbian: Smartphone is programmable
    • Featurephone has features, smartphone open to new features
  • Microsoft: Want to provide
    • “Featurephones only support voice calls and text” — what!
  • Google (Rich Miner): smartphones haven’t been very smart
    • first smartphones at Orange, could barely make phone calls on them
    • hey, guess what — they ran Windows Mobile :-)

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