Mobile operating systems and browsers are headed in opposite directions

During a panel at Web 2.0 Expo, someone asked if the panelists saw any signs that suggest mobile operating system fragmentation might decrease.

One of the panelists had a blunt answer: “No. There will be more fragmentation.”

It is striking to see the different trajectories mobile operating systems are on when compared to the mobile web.

In 2006, two smartphone operating systems accounted for 81 percent of the market. There were really only four platforms to worry about: Symbian, Windows Mobile, RIM, and Palm OS. These represented 93 percent of the market.

 

Smartphone Operating System Market Share Percentage
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Sources: Canalys, 2006. Gartner: 200720082009.
Symbian 67 63.5 52.4 46.9 ?
RIM 7 9.6 16.6 19.9 ?
Windows Mobile 14 12.0 11.8 8.7 ?
iPhone 0 2.7 8.2 14.4 ?
Linux 6 9.6 7.6 4.7 ?
Palm OS 5 1.4 1.8
Android 0.5 3.9 ?
WebOS 0.7 ?
Windows Phone 7 ?
Bada OS ?
MeeGo ?
Other OSs 1 1.1 2.9 0.6 ?

 

Fast-forward to the present and the picture is different. No single operating system has more than 50 percent marketshare. There are seven operating systems being tracked and even within operating systems there are fragmentation concerns.

The future promises more operating system fragmentation, not less:

This list doesn’t include differences within each particular operating system. Much has been made of Android fragmentation due to different user experiences like MotoBlur and HTC’s Sense UI. And some argue that even the homogenous iPhone platform is starting to fragment.

There are more mobile operating systems coming and no signs of the mobile OS market narrowing any time soon.

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