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A Wide-open Race for OS Dominance

By Jason Ankeny

What a difference a few months can make. Consider how much the mobile software landscape has transformed in the time since CTIA Wireless 2008 took place in early April: First and foremost, of course, Apple introduced its iPhone 3G as well as its App Store mobile application storefront--in the first month after the App Store launched, consumers downloaded more than 60 million iPhone applications, earning developers about $21 million in the process.

But that's not all: The open source arena opened up wide when Nokia acquired the remaining shares of mobile software licensing company Symbian Limited, announcing it plans to team with Sony Ericsson, Motorola and NTT DoCoMo to pool the Symbian OS, S60, UIQ and MOAP technologies to create a single open mobile software platform. At the same time, Google maintained the first devices powered by its Android mobile OS would hit retail by year's end, despite recurring rumors to the contrary, and Verizon Wireless formally committed to the LiMo Foundation's mobile Linux standard.

So while the mobile software community arrives at CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment 2008 with more momentum and energy than ever before, applications developers also find themselves at the crossroads between opportunity and fragmentation, faced with the prospect of three major open-source operating systems (Symbian, Android and LiMo) as well as the iPhone and perennials BlackBerry and Windows Mobile.

There's no clear favorite: Despite the breakout success of the App Store, which effectively revolutionized application sales and distribution in a matter of days, the iPhone still represents a relatively small segment of the overall device population--moreover, Apple's mysterious internal review process, erratic update protocol and my-way-or-the-highway approach to pricing have all rubbed some developers the wrong way.

Google also alienated its fair share of developers by secretly making a new version of the Android OS SDK available only to finalists of its Android Developer Challenge contest. And let's not count out Microsoft, either--the software giant recently revealed the number of Windows Mobile licenses grew by 81 percent in the past year, and there are now some 18,000 WinMo apps in all. Pay close attention to which operating systems the breakout apps of CTIA Wireless I.T. target: The battle for OS supremacy is about to get very interesting. [FierceWireless]

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