Posted by: Craig Mathias
Apple, BlackBerry, hackintosh, handset, iPhone, Microsoft, Palm, Pixi, Pre, RIM, standard handset architecture, Ubuntu, Windows 7 Phone Series
I was thinking the other day about Palm, and how the round-trip in their stock price reflects my original skepticism of the webOS strategy that hit the streets in January of last year. Some analysts are even now saying that Palm is an absolute zero-dollars-a-share crash-and-burn; I don’t see this and instead believe they will be acquired by an Asian firm for the value of their installed base (not worth much) and brand (worth more, but still not much). Anyway, I think the Pre and Pixi are terrific phones that are now available at bargain prices. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to consumers and smaller firms, and even larger firms that won’t be developing custom apps for them.
But, still, how come we remain in the era of proprietary and even somewhat closed (this means you, Apple) architectures and implementations? Why does the handset market mirror the PC world of 1985? The PC ultimately achieved a degree of standardization, thanks in part to Microsoft’s dominance of the OS space, that is today universal. You can run Linux on a PC (if you’ve not tried Ubuntu, do so – it’s so amazing on every machine I’ve installed it on that these guys really deserve the Nobel Prize in software), and you can even, with perhaps questionable legality, run the Mac OS on a huge range of PCs, resulting in the so-called “hackintosh”. I’m sure Microsoft didn’t have opening the door to competitors and easing their way in mind when it monopolistically published its specs for what the hardware must be to run its substandard, overpriced operating systems, but we’ve all ultimately benefitted from that move.
So how come no industry consortium has come forth with a viable specification for handset hardware standardization? Such a standard would of course include a broad range of requirements, optional features, and hardware extensibility mechanisms, and then allow essentially any compatible OS – which would almost certainly be based on the only OS that matters, Linux – to run? Sure, we’d still have the semi-closed, proprietary products from RIM and Apple, and maybe a few others, but such would open the door to apps for all (with much larger markets for developers), a greater degree of investment protection, and likely lower prices. How come enterprises aren’t clamoring for this? I think small mobile businesses would jump all over this idea.
I would think even Microsoft would be behind such an effort. It might even save Windows Mobile, um, I mean Windows 7 Phone Series, which is in very deep yogurt otherwise.