While Mobile OSes Fragment, the Mobile Web is Converging

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In an O'Reilly Radar report, mobile evangelist Jason Grigsby (@grigs) captures two mobile trends that might be surprising. Much unlike the desktop market, which has long been dominated by Windows with MacOS running a distant second, mobile devices are seeing increased fragmentation in operating systems. At the same time, web standards are bringing mobile web browsers closer together in similarity.

What does this mean to you?

Assuming you're either an enterprise IT manager, mobile marketer or small business owner looking at opportunities to communicate and connect via mobile, what does this mean for you? It will be increasingly difficult to reach a majority of your audience by building a native application (mobile app) for just one operating system. You'll have a much better time making content widely available if you embrace the mobile web. However, if you require an app for whatever reason, you'll be smart to target your platforms based on your most loyal and most profitable audience(s). There are smart ways to go about building apps and successes to be had if you give the process careful thought.

Just the Facts

Here are a few highlights from the article to give further detail. However, I encourage you to read the full article with many more facts and figures.

Grigsby compiled mobile OS stats since 2006, noting that "In 2006, two mobile operating systems controlled 81 percent of the market. This year there are 10 different smartphone operating systems". Further observations include the facts that:

  • No single mobile OS has greater than 50% marketshare.
  • Samsung will be releasing its own OS and HTC is considering producing its own. Grigsby cites reasons to take these OSes seriously based on the manufacturers' marketshare.
  • Android OS has been fragmented across handset manufacturers as several have overlayed their own user interfaces (MotoBlur and Sense UI).

While operating systems diverge, the report continues to outline how the mobile web is converging on HTML5 and WebKit. The only mobile browser that won't support HTML5 and WebKit for now is Internet Explorer, though indications show that future versions of the mobile IE will also support it.

2009 Smartphone Market Share (Gartner)

For complete analysis, read Jason Grigsby's article at O'Reilly Radar.

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