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Fragmentation and the Case of Too Many Operating Systems

The mobile world has officially been shaken up. There’s a full-on, bona fide battle of the mobile operating systems – but unlike in the laptop/desktop world, where Microsoft Windows commanded the vast majority of the market share while Apple’s OS X became a formidable challenger OS (with Linux barely factoring in there somewhere), there are far more dogs in the mobile OS fight – and they all seem pretty evenly matched. There’s Palm’s webOS, BlackBerry OS, iPhone OS, Windows Mobile, Google Android and a whole host of open source mobile operating systems.

In most cases, competition is good. We as consumers have certainly benefited from the arms race in mobile technology, with our handsets able to do just about everything short of giving us a back rub (though they can certainly tell you the phone number of every masseuse within a 10 mile radius). But for developers, choice can sometimes be a challenge. Take Android, for example. A recent blog post on the Android developer blog shows the breakdown of different versions of Android being run on mobile device. According to the pie chart, over half of the devices are running Android 1.6 (such as the T-Mobile G1) while about a quarter run Android 1.5 (the HTC Droid Eris) and about an eighth run Android 2.0 or higher (Motorola Droid).

Choosing which OS to support – let alone which version of the OS – can significantly slow down app development. Software developers may spend a good chunk of their time making sure their apps are compatible with the iPhone (including 3G, 3Gs and iPod touch), BlackBerry (Curve, Bold, Storm?), Windows Mobile Phones (5.0, 6.5 and up) and so on and so forth. And because asking cell phone users to upgrade their operating systems is easier said than done, you’ll continually have to cater to “legacy” platforms in order to reach a wide audience. That’s because some phones, while far from obsolete, simply can’t handle the new OS due to lack of memory or some other compatability issue.

It’s not quite as simple as making a Mac version and a Windows version.

What does this mean to us as cell phone users? It means that we may have to wait a little longer for buzzworthy apps to be released for our particular phone. Or we might face situations where a certain developer decides to abandon a certain OS so they can better focus on developing it for one platform.

One thing is clear: a solution is needed. We think we know what that solution  is – but you’ll have to stay tuned for the next blog post to find out what it is.

Related posts:

  1. Cell Phone Operating Systems: A Comparison
  2. Google Set To Sort the Android Platform Fragmentation before the Gingerbread Release
  3. The Keys to Buying a Smartphone: Carrier coverage, Price Plan and Operating System
  4. Firefox Mobile Add-ons: Extensions to Rule Them All
  5. Android Takes over Network Hog Status from the iPhone Operating System
  6. Nokia Is Eying Microsoft’s Phone Operating System
  7. MeeGo operating system, Nokia Betting Big with Smartphone Software
  8. RIM Stock Rebounds after They Show Their New Operating System
  9. More Proof That Competition Rife Between Rival Smartphone Operating System Creators
  10. More Users Come Calling from Their Android Cell Phones

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