Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mobile OS duopoly, just say no to iOS and Android.

As difficult as this may sound, just say no to iOS and Android.

At first glance, iOS is a nicely designed OS. It has elegant chiclet style buttons everywhere, it has a nice touch interface, and for phones I think the execution is just fine. That being said, this OS starts to become part of the problem as you scale it up for bigger devices. To access anything externally, you have to go through iTunes which has become a huge piece of bloatware on its own. A program that was originally designed for music playback has morphed into an entire business model for Apple.

The problem with iOS is that it is not on your side. It is designed in a way that forces you to do one thing at a time. watch a movie, browse the internet, play a game. The only way to make this OS work for you, is if you feed it more money. Buy a movie, buy an app, buy an ebook. I laugh at people that try to use this OS for anything other than consuming or making calls. Typing a paper on an iPad? Good Luck. Editing a movie? Please just say no. This OS is just useless for any interaction that requires more than two swipes of a finger. For an example, install Angry Birds and you will see two swipes of a finger in action and why that app has become the bestselling app ever.

While Google's Android might seem like its on the opposite side of iOS, It too is a problem. The design is fairly similar to iOS and while the Android OS itself runs on many different devices, its not on your side. Try using an Android device that doesn’t have the Google Marketplace and see how much fun you can really have with it. Google Marketplace is the #1 feature going for Android, and its not even as good as Apple's App store implementation. Whats worse is that Google plays lip service to the Open Source community by saying, “Oh we are for open standards because we are based on Linux.” but can one really tinker with an Android device? The answer is no, because Android devices are also pretty locked down. HTC is making strides towards a more open platform by keeping the bootloader on its devices unlocked. A welcome move for sure, but it will have little impact on Android itself.

MeeGo looked like it was the promising OS for Tablets and Phones. It had a unique UI with its “at a glance panels” and it could run a lot of existing programs that you would see on an OS like Ubuntu. Unfortunately this option has been deemed nonviable thanks to Nokia and Microsoft. Nokia announced a partnership with Microsoft to exclusively sell hardware that runs Windows Mobile. And as a result, all plans to develop MeeGo have been killed. They will release one MeeGo based phone and I am sure it will do very well. However Nokia has decided not to introduce that particular phone in the USA, Canada and most of Europe. It is being launched in Mexico, a market where Microsoft has little interest in at this time. The move to stick with Microsoft will probably doom Nokia to being a budget handset manufacturer for the foreseeable future and that’s if they even survive. Maybe if the Microsoft friendly Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop (last name backwards is Pole) ends up getting tossed out, we may see a Nokia revival. I am not counting on that anytime soon so good luck to Nokia.

Realistically we have no viable mobile platform at this time now that MeeGo seems to have been killed in the cradle. MeeGo and WebOS are dead while Windows Mobile and BlackBerry OS are jokes. Rather than falsely hoping for Microsoft and RIM to develop a better OS, I would like to see greater strides towards the development of Ubuntu Mobile to address the iOS/Android duopoly. Until then, I will probably stick with my cheap flip phone since even in 2011, all I realistically want to do with my phone is call people (and even that is something I tend to avoid).

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