If Google's ambitions for its recently-launched Android smartphone operating system are fully realized, the new OS will represent a tipping point in attitudes towards the whole concept of a smartphone. This tectonic shift will affect consumers, handset manufacturers and, most critically, mobile network operators.
According to ABI Research director Kevin Burden, "If Android is to become the ubiquitous mobile phone platform that Google and the Open Handset Alliance hope it will be, it will be because operators and handset OEMs recognize the value to their own business models of using standard platforms, not because wireless subscribers clamor for feature-rich phones, much less an Android-based phone."
The current smartphone market accounts for only 14% of worldwide handsets. That doesn't help Google's aspirations to have a platform used by a wide population to whom they can market their services. Google needs to convince handset manufacturers to replace the real-time operating systems that now power the majority of mobile phones. In the smartphone market of the future, users won't always be aware of what they're buying: they will buy simply because they're in the market for a phone, not specifically a smartphone.
The challenge is to convince operators that having more phones in their lineups and more subscribers using those phones based on standardized operating systems is good for them. Standardization delivers easier manageability at the technical level and greater ease in marketing services to all their subscribers.
"The smartphone market has been moving in this direction for some time now," Burden continues. "If Android is a success, it may be the tipping point that marks the start of a profound change in the smartphone market."
ABI Research's "Smartphone and OS Markets" report provides a thorough overview of the smartphone market, concentrating on key developments in both device feature set expansion and the evolving software landscape. The report covers important topics including specific features and technologies that enhance the user interface, in addition to the encroachment of open source software into the smartphone domain.
It forms part of the firm's Mobile Devices Research Service.