Another brick in the wall

Monday morning news wrap turned my eyes to a special item: Major operator groups launching own mobile OS to compete with Android and iOS.

As I’ve written in previous blog posts on Android, operator interference in the world of apps and OS offered to end users aren’t always warmly embraced (See I should have known better

I could write endlessly about the telecoms industry not needing another OS, app store or additional actor in the middleware layer…but I won’t. Instead I’d like to pose the question: why?

I can come up with a two reasons;

1. Operator Groups firmly believe that there is a market need for an alternative OS and that there is money to be made from it. This one is of course the most obvious. Why would you create a product otherwise?

2. Operator groups want to increase their bargaining power towards Google, Apple and device manufacturers. Through an alternative threat they can make sure that they keep some say in the emerging ecosystem around smartphones and applications.

Point 1 begs a few follow up questions. Which manufacturers will use the OS? Current major ones that have any brand power are unlikely to add another OS to their portfolio. Who will manage and facilitate the ecosystem around it? Is it the operator group that will act as moderator?

Personally I believe that operators will say that they do it because of 1) but the actual agenda is 2). Not that I really understand the reasoning behind it. Like with the google tax – why would Google (with an annual revenue of approx USD 24 Bn 2009) pay operators (with a global aggregate revenue of approximately USD 865 Bn) to make their connection service attractive? Does Electrolux pay Fortum to use their electricity in washing machines? The same argument applies here.

And again I reiterate, operators that want to compete on SW and applications have to compete with the best in the market. Pushing users back into a walled garden will not be possible. I think a much better approach to this would be to build on Android and compete in that market instead of trying to invent the wheel. Or create own apps in Apples iTunes. Both are probably the shortest path to starting to make any money off it.

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