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Android wins, let the differentiation begin

MWC 2014 was the year the rest of the industry finally conceded that the mobile OS war was over and Android had won the centre ground. No point in pretending that another OS might come along and carve out a third ecosystem to take on Android.. not going to happen.

But guess what? Suddenly the OS market view doesn’t look so bad after all as competitors start to work with and around Android, sucking up its advantages but reserving the right to differentiate their own products from it. The OS doesn’t (or needn’t) define market power - using Android there’s still plenty of scope for handset makers to differentiate with the handset, the UI and, of course, the core embedded services.

This new phase was kicked off with perhaps the most dramatic announcement at MWC. After years of struggle culminating in the near death experience of what was the leading mobile handset vendor - Nokia - the company announced that it would use the Android OS, not Windows, in a new line of low-cost handsets. Cue sharp intake of breath from about 80,000 MWC attendees.

The Nokia about-turn has been widely written about and commented on, but Nokia isn’t the only one taking advantage of the open source OS (the core Android is open source) and all the apps that it’s accumulated.

Jolla, the Finnish company founded at the demise of Meego, is also supporting Android apps with its Sailfish OS. Not only that but it’s made Sailfish available for Android users to upload and use. You can find out all about the Jolla strategy and offer by watching this video interview with Jolla COO and co-founder, Marc Dillon.

Then there’s Blackphone, the total security phone. Again, a highly differentiated offer built on Android underpinnings.

And there is even still room for a competely different approach to occupy the low-cost space underneath Android to capture share in emerging markets, this time without Android

Firefox’s Web-based OS met with a reserved response when it debuted at MWC two years ago, but it’s continued to go from strength to strength. It’s now on sale in 15 markets via four global operators. It’s next step is to target the $25 smartphone. At MWC we talked with Chris Lee, director of product at Firefox OS, in this video.

So with the OS wars with Android apparently over, perhaps the real differention can begin.

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