Research Notes

The battle for domination of the mobile operating system market is over

– but a new war has started…

Many people believe that the future battle on the mobile market will be between the mobile operating systems. Especially Microsoft and Symbian are competing to become the future operating system (OS) on the mobile market, but also PalmSource, Linux based OSs and Java based OSs are trying to win market shares. One of the reasons why the competition is so fierce on the OS market is that many in the business have a naive belief that the winner will take it all and the loser will get nothing – just as has happened in the PC world. Strand Consult is however convinced that the battle for the OS market will diminish significantly over the coming period for one reason and one reason only; the future battle on the mobile market will not be between OSs, but instead be between user interfaces (UIs).

UIs can basically be divided into 3 types:

1. UIs that contains APIs
2. UIs that run on a VM (Virtual machine)
3. Simple UIs without APIs

UIs that contain API’s do not make the mobile service/mobile application independent from the mobile telephones operating system. This is due to that the APIs that are made available by the underlying OS are still used together with the APIs made available by the UI. When using the UIs that contain APIs the service developer will have to develop services specifically designed for both that OS in combination with its UI. One example of this is the Opera platform from Opera, which is a UI for handsets, but also functions as a service platform. But also Nokia’s Series 60 and UIQ from UIQ Technology are examples of UIs that contains APIs.

Some UIs run on a VM (Virtual Machine). A VM is an application that emulates a virtual computer/handset on the users handset and by using this virtual computer/handset the user can run applications. These applications are therefore completely independent of the physical handset/OS. To run this type of VM application there has to be developed a VM for the OS in question. By using a UI on a VM, the service developer can of course develop services specifically for that UI, regardless of the actual OS. This moves focus away from the OS and over to the UI. One example is Flash Light from Macromedia that can be used as a UI on handsets, but is also a handset independent service platform.

But it is not only the technical aspect that is causing an increased focus towards UIs. It will also be possible for operators or other players to use their own UIs on handsets. These UIs do not necessarily need to contain APIs or to run on a VM and can therefore be simple UIs, whose only function is to act as an interface between the user and the OS. These UIs can be branded by the operator (or by another player on the mobile market) and the UIs can therefore be one way of helping operators differentiate themselves. For example the icons, backgrounds, sounds etc. can be adapted/branded to an operator.

As Strand Consult as described in their new report – ”How to get success in the 3. Generation VAS market”- this increased focus on UIs will be able to upset the power balance between the mobile players in the mobile value chain, as the UI allows a much greater level of individualisation on the mobile handsets and also gives the possibility for other players than just the OS manufacturers to enter this important new mobile market area.

The UIs will become a very central part of the future mobile market. All market players will be interested in gaining control over the handset’s UI and by using UIs with APIs or UIs that run on a VM, they will be able to achieve the same network effect that is characteristic of the OS market today. These network effects mean that it will become crucial for UI suppliers to as quickly as possible achieve UI volume. 

the 3. Generation Value Added Service Market

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