CTIA IT 2009 Scorecard: Operating systems

Whose profile is rising? Android. The Android mobile operating achieved critical mass just hours prior to CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment 2009, when news broke that Verizon Wireless will partner with Google for a series of Android handsets and applications, a game-changing collaboration that brings together two longtime rivals that frequently clashed over both business and policy.

Touting the company's devotion to an open network and open applications, Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam said the operator will launch two Android devices this year, inaugurating a multi-year roadmap that promises to yield myriad Android smartphones and applications. Verizon and Google said the Android phones will arrive preloaded with applications from both firms as well as third-party developers--asked if Verizon would support the Google Voice VoIP application, McAdam said: "Yes, we will bring that app to market when we do the first device." McAdam's declaration forced rival AT&T to update its own policy and allow VoIP apps for Apple's iPhone to run over its network. (In September, AT&T petitioned the FCC to investigate Google Voice, contending the app violates both federal call-blocking regulations and net neutrality principles by improperly blocking calls to certain rural areas.)

Android continued building momentum as the CTIA show unfolded: First, Motorola announced a series of third-party applications tied to its forthcoming Android smartphones, including software from partners Amazon MP3, Barnes & Noble, Comcast and MySpace. A day later, Sprint confirmed it will launch Samsung's latest Android smartphone, the Moment. In addition, The Wall Street Journal reported AT&T is poised to introduce an Android device manufactured by Dell, due to hit stores early next year. And Kyocera signaled its intentions to release an Android phone next year.

With so many manufacturers and operators embracing Android, research firm Gartner forecasts the OS will overtake Apple's iPhone in worldwide market share by 2012. Gartner's Ken Dulaney anticipates Android will claim 14.5 percent of OS market share in three years, up from 1.6 percent in the first quarter of 2009 and second only to Symbian, which Dulaney believes will represent 39 percent of the market in 2012. "Android rises to No. 2 simply because, unlike Apple, they license their OS to multiple OEMs," Dulaney told AppleInsider. "They have the No. 2 OEM, Samsung, and strong players like LG, Motorola, HTC and now Dell. There are others in the works. Apple will still likely have the top of mind in the marketplace with probably the most purely defined consumer product." Android's expected gains will come at the expense of Research In Motion's BlackBerry platform--Dulaney believes RIM's market share will drop 7.4 percent to 12.5 percent by 2012.

Whose profile is falling? Windows Mobile. Almost eight months after Microsoft first announced plans to launch its Windows Marketplace for Mobile effort, the app store finally opened for business last week in tandem with the release of the software giant's updated Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system. Of course, that news seemed like little more than an afterthought as the attention of media, analysts and consumers shifted to the Verizon Wireless/Google Android deal. Even worse for Microsoft, when pundits did finally remember to shine a spotlight on Windows Mobile 6.5, the reviews were Ishtar-bad: "Windows Mobile 6.5 isn't just a letdown--it barely seems done," writes Gizmodo's John Herrman. "It'll be a sad, long slog until April (or god forbid, December) when Windows Mobile 7, whatever it is, finally hits phones." And that was one of the kinder critiques.

Outside of a few, little-noticed WinMo 6.5 handset announcements, Windows Mobile barely registered on the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment 2009 radar, and WinMo 6.5's bellyflop only adds to the growing sentiment that the platform as a whole is on its last legs. Following August's announcement that longtime mobile adversaries Microsoft and Nokia will partner to integrate Microsoft Office software into upcoming Symbian smartphones, research firm Gartner stuck a fork in Windows Mobile--"Despite loud protestations that Microsoft is deeply committed to WinMo, they wouldn't have needed this alliance with Nokia if WinMo were the leading smartphone operating system," Gartner analyst Nick Jones wrote. "I worry that WM7 could even be the last throw of the dice. Imagine you're [Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer, and in two years time WinMo was still 4th in smartphone market share. How much longer would you keep throwing money at it?"

To be fair, though, Samsung and LG have expressed their support for the platform in attempts to get into the enterprise market.

However, with Motorola embracing Android and Palm touting its own proprietary webOS, only LG seems genuinely committed to Windows Mobile's future, pledging to produce 50 new WinMo handset models in the months ahead. Short of a truly revolutionary user experience, Windows Mobile 7 seems unlikely to right the ship--especially if doesn't hit the market until CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment 2010 is already in the books.

CTIA IT 2009 Scorecard: Operating systems