We Want Fewer Mobile OS, Operators Say

A significant issue in the mobile industry is the wide range of operating systems powering mobile handsets from different manufacturers. While smartphones have harmonized around a handful of OS such as Symbian and Windows Mobile, lower-end featurephones still run a different OS according to their manufacturer. This is obviously a problem for mobile application developers and content providers, who must waste resources porting applications among incompatible systems, since write-once-run-anywhere efforts like J2ME have failed to deliver on that promise. It’s not just a development issue, though — mobile operators also don’t like the situation, since it complicates their support functions and makes it difficult to roll out services and applications across their entire device portfolio. As a solution, some operators have stated their desire to settle on a small number of platforms — typically smartphone platforms — which will allow them to roll out consistent user interfaces across different brands of devices, as well as to more easily launch new applications and services. The idea of giving mobile operators even more control over the user experience on a mobile device isn’t necessarily appealing, but this concept of platformization has some benefits: it will make it easier for third-parties to develop and sell their applications and content services. It will also make it easier for new vendors to enter the market, by taking operator-approved OS and UIs, then pairing them with a reference design from a chip vendor or platform, and get new devices to market quickly.

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