Can the mobile ecosystem support multiple OS environments?

Having attended an iBreakfast this past summer on moblie app development, I could not help but wonder if it makes sense moving forward for app developers to have to cater to multiple mobile OS platforms. If you use the PC wars as any indication of this, the answer would tell us that the ecosystem cannot support more than 1 or 2 OS platforms in the mobile space. Two of the main reasons that Microsoft became the planet’s OS are:

1. Hardware neutrality: Distributed model enabled multiple hardware platforms to adopt the OS giving consumer a wide choice of hardware.
2. Application support: Once distribution was in place, developers naturally gravitate towards the largest ecosystem.

Mobile device are of course the next generation of computing. Evolution of ‘The Cloud’ will ensure that all of our data will be available at all times making our mobile devices the only devices we will need (with a bit of help from mobile keyboards and portable screens).

Hardware neutrality will be the champion of Microsoft and Google’s Android. Apple has the lead on apps along with momentum due to its first mover advantage and the ease at which developer tools enable entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace. RIM had the lead on ‘push’ communications, but that will narrow as competing software closes the gap quickly.

The big difference from the PC marketplace is how consumers latch onto a few select leading hardware devices (unlike the PC industry). Remember StarTAC from Motorola? Everyone had to have that phone. The same applies to a few select devices today.

In some ways we can look to the PC market to see how this will net out. In other ways mobile computing has a psychology all of its own. Just because you allow choice of hardware does not guarantee adoption by the consumer and mobile industry as the PC market once did.

What is certain is that a few players will fall as the ecosystem will be unable to support them all.

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