The mobile OS battlefield

Sheep Watch By The U.S. Army

Well it looks like there are some serious conflicts underway in the mobile operating system sector at the moment. While not quite as fun as some good ol’ fashion fisticuffs – the current bout of patent and legal battles is really intriguing for the interested observer.

What’s at stake is the shape of future operating systems in the mobile landscape… and it looks like it might be a little more interesting than the current two horse race.

Basically Google in under siege and they’ve built some pretty good walls and have a large war chest on which to base its defence. However they are being attacked on all sides from the big boys – Microsoft, Apple and Oracle. Are they out to get Google? Well yes, but not in the same way you think. They aren’t looking to chop down the White Knight because they are champions of open source, they’re just uncovered the little secret that discredits everything that Google has been fighting for. Some increasingly shoddy business practices and pretty blatant infringements of intellectual property have come to light. What’s also coming to light is the fact that Google management encouraged these practices knowing full well that they would likely end up in court.

So not only has Google taken a large share of the mobile marketplace – it’s been done using some very questionable methods. What Microsoft, Apple and Oracle are doing is not the “organized campaign” against the Android operating system “waged through bogus patents” as Google claims. It’s more of an intervention, letting them know they’ve done some pretty bad things, severely damaged some businesses and done so using some really appalling tactics.

So what’s going to be the outcome? This article in AppleInsider actually points to this round of legal action, in particular the suit bought about by Oracle, actually bringing about a more diverse landscape with much better competition. If royalty fees are put in place for Android we might actually see a shift in adoption, as the benefits are diminished and will encourage companies to develop their own unique platforms instead.

In fact there are a raft of alternatives already out there ready to launch that Android has managed to be keep at bay because of its price difference – ie it’s free! So what’s out there?

  • Samsung has it’s Bada platform
  • HP has webOS
  • Nokia has its partnership with Microsoft,
  • Motorola has its custom Linux platform
  • Oracle’s has its JavaME
  • Apple has it’s iOS, and
  • RIM (Blackberry) still has it’s platform.

So instead of an Android vs iOS battle in the smartphone arena we now have a battle royale situation – which is far more fun and will really push innovation and experimentation. So in the end these legal battles may encourage innovation, not quite how Google put it: “Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it”.

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