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Mobile OS Wars: Apple v Android v Windows Phone
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MikeB
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 1:42 pm    Post subject: Mobile OS Wars: Apple v Android v Windows Phone Reply with quote

pocketgpsworld.comOne of the main topics of conversation at Mobile World Congress was, not surprisingly, mobile operating systems for SmartPhones. Up until last week there were 2 main players in the market but with the announcement of the Nokia-Microsoft strategic partnership suddenly Windows Phone 7 has become a new force to be reckoned with.

Interestingly looking around the exhibition areas of Mobile world Congress you may be forgiven for thinking that there was only one OS for SmartPhones: Android. It seemed that pretty much every exhibitor was promoting Android in one form or other. Microsoft Windows Phone 7 was only really visible on the Microsoft stand, and as usual Apple was nowhere to be seen.

In fact this year's MWC was a major marketing coup for the Android consortium. There was a huge Android stand which really encompassed the spirit of the system. The clever marketing ploy though was the lapel pins spread about the exhibition halls, not only did this encourage visitors to go to each Android partner, but it also highlighted the number of companies using or partnering with Android.

So with three main contenders for the crown of SmartPhone OS what are the distinguishing business models for each of them? Where are they positioned in the market?

Each of the vendors (and for now I will consider Android as a vendor) has implemented their business using very different methodologies. It is analogous to politics in a way: Apple are the Dictators, they have full control of their ecosystem; Android is positioned at the other end of the spectrum with Communism; and sitting in the middle is Microsoft with a democratic system defining the rules but allowing freedom of implementation.

There are obviously strengths in each of the various systems, but they also have weaknesses too.

Starting with Apple, their total control of the platform is a severe hinderance to freedom of choice, and a barrier to development. Many people are frustrated with the processes and restrictions that Apple place on developers and users. The closed environment is also anathema to many people who value the principles of freedom of choice. On the other hand, and probably because of the control, Apple have developed an ecosystem that pretty much just works. There is a clear and defined development path for future products and upgrades. Virtually all iPhone users are running on the latest version of the OS. It is ideal for the non-technical user and provides the end-to-end experience that is associated with the Apple brand. Apple has led the way, showing others what a real consumer experience of a SmartPhone should be. It is still the standard by which other systems are judged. The restrictiveness of the ecosystem though is likely to be its downfall. With Apple the only manufacturer of iOS devices there is only so much penetration they can make in the global SmartPhone market.

Android sits at the opposite side of the market. It is an infrastructure developed by a consortium of software and hardware companies, but over the last couple of years has become very much synonymous with Google. Indeed talking to people at MWC the term Google and Android were often used in the same context. It has been forgotten that the consortium consists of many others including Garmin.

The Android OS is open-source. This effectively means that there is no company or individual defining the features or direction of the development, and that individual companies can extract, modify and use the code. There is an Android Compatibility guide, but the effect of this method of development is to generate a large number of slightly different functioning platforms. This makes it difficult for developers to create generic applications that run on all versions of the OS. We have recently found when developing CamerAlert that there are some subtle and not so subtle differences in implementations from different hardware vendors. From a user point of view the Android system still has a long way to go to reach the same level of simplicity as the Apple AppStore. From a developer point of view the infrastructure is very suitable to the old 'hacker' development style, but once it is installed and configured it works very well. There is no dictatorial review process and if a serious fault is found it can be fixed and released to the Android Market in minutes.

The popularity of Android with the SmartPhone manufacturers is obvious. The open-source structure means that there are no licenses or royalties to be paid, and with a small amount of customisation they can implement Android on their latest devices. Thus they can get handsets to consumers with less overheads. This does have a disadvantage in that users are dependent on the phone manufacturer/carrier to provide upgrades to the OS and as such has found that the vast majority of users retain the version of the OS that the phone was supplied with.

So that leaves us with Microsoft's Windows Phone 7. WP7 is a late entry into the market arriving in November last year. This OS has still to make it's mark on the industry, but grabbing the middle ground and the support of Nokia it may well become a force to be reckoned with. It is still very early days as far as the Nokia/Microsoft partnership is concerned, but given the strengths of both companies only a fool would write them off. With Microsoft's experience in operating systems and Nokia's leading position in phone hardware it sounds like a marriage made in heaven. What I expect to see emerge from this partnership is an OS that has clear direction and leadership, driving a development community and infrastructure that is both flexible and strong in the marketplace. Assuming that the Windows Marketplace for Mobile can evolve to compete on level terms with the Android Marketplace and Apple's AppStore then there is no reason that WM7 cannot share the limelight with the other two Mobile OS systems.

Weighing up the opportunities of the mobile operating systems had led me to believe that there really are some interesting times ahead in the next 18 months of so. Gone are the days when a mobile OS stood on its own merits. Today the entire ecosystem is critical to the success of the OS. Today Apple is by far and away the leader but the others are catching up fast.

The Nokia/Microsoft partnership will not have a real affect in the market until the end of the year when we will start to see Nokia SmartPhones running WP7. Apple and Android will most likely continue in the same manner with Android overtaking Apple in terms of devices, but Apple retaining it's crown in the AppStore. Ultimately Apple will become numerically inferior in the market due to it's restrictive operational and sales policies. That, however, will not really affect Apple itself as can be seen from it sales of Macs and MacBooks this is the arena Apple is comfortable in. Android on the other hand will go from strength to strength, but it needs to do some serious work on its MarketPlace and development systems to be able to rival the quantity, quality and security of Apps available from Apple. The three different approaches to Mobile ecosystems will prove to be the ultimate decider in the success of a phone, though I suspect that the real race may be between mass markets of Android and WP7 as Apple fall back to a niche position.
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Guivre46
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From an Oldie many thanks. Why are simple helpful things like this so few and far between? I'd seriously consider an android phone after reading this.
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Privateer
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good article Mike,

I like my HTC Desire, which runs Android. However because I have my contacts in Microsoft Outlook instead of Gmail I don't have an easy job to transfer contacts between my PC and my Android phone. I have to export to a CSV file, rename columns (this is so my contacts are in sorted by last name and not first name), run a macro to add commas, save the CSV file, finally import it into my phone's Gmail account.

The backing up of an Android phone is also complicated (when compared to an old PDA).

The Nokia support of Windows 7 is an interesting twist and will surely bring Windows 7 as a major player in the game.

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gatorguy6996
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've had an ongoing debate with one of the Apple bloggers the past few days. FWIW, I think the complaints of fragmentation on the Android platform are more imagined (and repeated) than a true problem hindering the platform development. Google has posted the percentage of devices using each of the Android versions Here . In effect only 10% are on what would be construed as an "old version" lacking an upgrade path. In addition, a unifying version, IceCream, is slated for release within a few weeks, putting tablets and smartphones on the same version path from then forward. With an estimated 120 million Android devices set for purchase this year, Android serving 100's of millions of consumers, and a unified OS, I personally think the future for Android is a bit brighter than Apple fan have been lead to believe. The percentage of paid apps in the Android Market has jumped from 22% up to 34% in just 6 months, while Apple's percentage has actually gone in the other direction, dropping to 66% from 71%. Granted that the total revenue flowing from Apples's Appstore purchases was over 80% of the total smartphone app market last year, but that would be expected with at least three times as many Apple apps thru the bulk of last year compared to Android. In addition those figures don't include the shared ad revenue flowing to developers from Google via the Android Market. Of course Apple is mimicking Googles ad-sharing strategy as well with their iAd program. And it appears to be paying dividends for them too, enabling an increasing level of free applications coming to their platform. All in all I expect the mobile landscape to change significantly over just the next year with no clear evidence just yet on what it will look like by February next.

Just my .02 cents as usual.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

t Robert but to sync with outlook on windows phone you need to outlook to connector to sync with you windows live accout then it sync the contacts or just save em to tour SIM windowsphone7 is completely different to windows mobile in every way its a whole new learnif curve
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st1967
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although I like my phone (HTC Touch Pro 2 on Windows Mobile 6.5) I was all set to throw it in the bin and move to Android. As much as I've loved my windows mobiles I think Microsoft have just killed their platform stone dead (zero development on the wm 6.5 platform).

That was until the Nokia deal. Talk about a deal to save the platform. I think it is win win for both companies and I am now curious to see what they can come up with.

I was about to buy a shiny new HTC Desire Z (I like my keyboard) but may just stick it out the TP2 for a bit longer yet because Nokia certainly have an eye for style.

PS. The only good thing about my wm 6.5 is the mobile Outlook !! We have Exchange Activesync ("push" e-mail) at work so it is great to add a contact to your computer outlook for it then to automatically appear on your phone.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 19, 2011 12:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since getting a WP7 phone late last year, my iPhone4, Android (HTC) and Palm Pre have been consigned to the coffee table

Admitadley the Palm Pre purely because of dreadful battery life (the OS is wonderful and if battery life improves may be tempted by the new HP Pre 3s due out in the summer)

iPhone is such a static dated interface (okay done very slick) where nothing happens unless it is in an ap that it, for me, has become unuseable

Android has potential, but as it stands today is too muddled both in terms of useability (the parts are not joined together as they should be) and hugh issues with updates from all the venders. Closed systems often aint good, but neither is this level of fragmentation and openness - and with it lack of control and support

WP7 is a great interface that brings the fun of the iPhone, the power of Android and the usability of Palm WebOS in to one unit. Its not perfect by any means, and has a long way to go, (new update due early march and a major free update Q3 2011 will be just the starting point) but it works

For me its my choice of phone - decent battery life, great useability as a phone, great email support and growing app base
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Privateer wrote:
However because I have my contacts in Microsoft Outlook instead of Gmail I don't have an easy job to transfer contacts between my PC and my Android phone. I have to export to a CSV file, rename columns (this is so my contacts are in sorted by last name and not first name), run a macro to add commas, save the CSV file, finally import it into my phone's Gmail account.
I was in the same position when I first went from WinMo to Android.

I suggest that you have a look at syncdroid where there is an extremely comprehensive list of all the solutions available to synchronise data between Outlook and Android.

Personally, I am using VCOrganizer as (a) I do not want Google to have a copy of my data and (b) I want to synchronise all my Outlook data (Calendar, Tasks, Notes, Contacts and Categories) and not just Contacts. It also allows contacts in "last name, first name" format.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I;ve just got a Desire and I've also been experimenting with syncing contacts and calender. I've found 2 easy ways - both mutually exclusive.

1. If you have a corporate Exchange server, get the admin to open up MMS and then use the over-the-air exchange sync which comes built into the email app. That can sync mail, calender and contacts. That is what I now use.

2. If you are using a local copy of Outlook, the Desire SD card has a program called HTC_SYNC on it. Copy that to your PC, run it to install the app and it will then sync your local calender and contacts.

be aware the two are mutually exclusive - if, like me, your local Outlook is linked to Exchange, you may end up with two copies of the same thing on your Desire (yes, I did have to clean it up a bit).

HTH

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Virtually all iPhone users are running on the latest version of the OS


This is a very important piece of the puzzle. It's not just users that are blindly following Apple's upgrade dictate. Developers are forced (yes, forced) to use the very latest development tools - otherwise they cannot submit applications to the app store.

What I am curious about is - what happened to all the original iPhones? You know, the ones that are physically incapable of upgrading to iOS4 ?

Android fragmentation is real. We have a very large percentage of devices that will never be upgraded (at least 10% on 1.5 and 1.6), and we see all kinds of exotic bugs on even more exotic combinations of devices and OS versions and sub-versions. Not wanting to point fingers, but we got a bug report from someone running Gingerbread on a re-flashed Windows Mobile 6.5 device...

After all it is a question on how smart a smartphone needs to be, and how long can it survive and be useful. six months? five years?

WebOS was already mentioned, and RIM isn't dead yet. So we are really looking at a minimum of five serious competitors in this market.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And at least 15% of all iPhones sold will be left "fragmented" as well. 4.2.1 is the final update for at least 12 million iPhones, and untold millions of iPods. No longer supported by the current "4.3x" in developer testing. If I've misspoken, please let me know as I just know what I read, not being an Apple guy.

Fragmentation is real on both platforms, just not talked about with Apple products.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gatorguy6996 wrote:
And at least 15% of all iPhones sold will be left "fragmented" as well. 4.2.1 is the final update for at least 12 million iPhones, and untold millions of iPods. No longer supported by the current "4.3x" in developer testing. If I've misspoken, please let me know as I just know what I read, not being an Apple guy.

Fragmentation is real on both platforms, just not talked about with Apple products.


but the apple devices are no longer manufactured or sold. some of the older android devices are still... fragmented, yes, but in a slightly different way.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Valid point. The 3G was discontinued June of last year. Still need to be considered in application development tho, or ignore a significant percentage of Apple devices. Not that different from Android from a developer's standpoint is it? I may be way off base.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Privateer wrote:
I like my HTC Desire, which runs Android. However because I have my contacts in Microsoft Outlook instead of Gmail I don't have an easy job to transfer contacts between my PC and my Android phone.

I have an HTC Desire HD and use HTC Sync from http://www.htc.com/www/SupportViewNews.aspx?dl_id=1073&news_id=872 to sync Outlook contacts and calendar. Works well: just run HTC Sync, connect the phone with USB, click to sync.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is HTC Sync reliable? I've read otherwise in the past.

I wanted Android but, in the end, made a reluctant move from WM 6.5 to iPhone 4, very wary of being locked into Apple. One of the main reasons was Outlook sync - calendar and contacts sync perfectly and transparently, every time I plug my iPhone into my PC. I need to be sure HTC has got this right, before I buy, especially now that I've found out for myself just how good Apple support is for both iPhone and iTunes.
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