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.
|Sources: Canalys, 2006. Gartner: 2007, 2008, 2009.|
|Windows Phone 7||?|
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:
- In February, Nokia and Intel joined forces to create a new open source smartphone operating system calledMeeGo.
- HP’s purchase of Palm means that WebOS isn’t going away any time soon.
- Windows Phone 7 will replace Windows Mobile, but not immediately. It is also unclear how Kin fits into the picture.
- Samsung will ship its own operating system called Bada later this summer. Before you discount Bada, remember that Samsung has the highest percentage of U.S. mobile subscribers, sells more touch screen phones than anyone else, and aims to sell 18 million smartphones this year.
- HTC is rumored to be considering its own operating system. HTC is the fourth largest manufacturer of smartphones.
- Motorola is rumored to have bought its own mobile operating system. Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha saidduring Q1′s earnings call, “I continue to believe that at some point … that owning our own OS will be a very important thing.”
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.