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The Invasion of the New Mobile OSes: Windows Phone 7, MeeGo, Bada

September 7, 2010

There are three serious newcomers rising above the horizon of the mobile OS battlefield which deserve some attention. Let’s have a look at Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, Nokia and Intel’s MeeGo and Samsung’s Bada.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7

Our first contender Microsoft is yet to come up with a mobile platform that captivates the imagination of the market, despite having invested seriously in this direction. With a mobile world future so obviously set ‘in phone’ the company must hurry if it is to catch up with the current leaders.

The interesting thing about Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 is that it is something entirely new. Windows Mobile has been rebuilt from the scratch, the new OS features a completely altered home screen and UI experience, serious integration of Xbox LIVE and Zune, new and vastly improved social networking tools. WinPhone 7 runs on a new range of hardware which makes upgrading devices with earlier versions Windows OS impossible. The OS addresses user complaints head-on, integrating hardware and software in such a way as to deliver a seamless mobile experience never seen before.

According to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer the WinPhone 7 will “redefine what a phone can do for people”, integrating “web, applications and content in an intuitive way”. WinPhone 7 introduces two new concepts – “the hubs” and “live tiles”. The Office, People, Multimedia and Games Hubs provide easy access to relevant dynamic and local content, where user information is well categorized for efficiency and simplicity. The ‘live tiles’ replace the cluttered front screen of the device with large customizable icons, automatically updated with important information like reminders, appointments, weather and anything else the user wishes to see at a glance. The OS supports selective multitasking, allowing users to use an application while receiving an email or a call, and at the same time listening to music.

According to Paul Bryan, a senior director at Microsoft, Windows Phone 7 is targeted at the “customers with active personal and business lives who desire a single device to navigate seamlessly between work and play.” Joe Belfiore, another senior company executive goes on to call Microsoft’s target market the ‘life maximizer’ – an individual busy both personally and professionally, juggling priorities, and blurring the line between work and play, perhaps by answering emails at night while watching TV.

Windows Phone 7 Announce Video

Nokia and Intel’s MeeGo

Our second guest, MeeGo, is an open source Linux mobile operating system brought to life earlier this year by the joint efforts of giants Intel and Nokia. MeeGo is the result of merging Intel and Nokia’s two respective Linux projects, Moblin and Maemo. The two begemot companies entered a long-term strategic partnership in 2009 with the idea of collaborating on Linux-based open source projects. Pooling resources in order to compete in the mobile space might just give a newcomer the edge it needs when entering the market so ‘late‘.

Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo sees MeeGo as a stepping stone to “reclaiming leadership in high-end smartphones and mobile computers.” He ads: “It is critical that we improve the customer experience with the usability of both our devices and our services.” The president and CEO of Intel Paul Otellini claims that MeeGo will allow seamless communication “between computing devices from the home, auto, office or your pocket”.

Thomas Miller, another executive at Nokia, shared during the annual LinuxCon in Boston last month that devices will be open for users to theoretically be able to modify software, which should make it very useful for third-party platform developers. Another key advantage of MeeGo is allowing multiple vendors participation in the development process from an early stage and continuous access to the source code.

The current build of MeeGo includes base MeeGo APIs, including Qt and MeeGo touch frameworks, Firefox-based browser, a photo viewer, and a few basic UI elements like status bar, app launcher, and virtual keyboard. Recently the MeeGo blog released some new screens of the OS as part of UI guidelines and revealed some of its features. MeeGo apparently seems to resemble an Android/iPhone mix; multitasking is reported to be quite interesting. Text input is standard, copy/paste functionality is also a fact.

“MeeGo brings together two projects committed to an open stack for mobile computing devices dependent on community-developed free software that respects users’ rights,” writes Eben Moglen, the founder of the Software Freedom Law Center. “This is a bold and important step towards a mobile network in which people get software made by people for people, instead of software made by companies to control people.”

MeeGo Overview

Samsung’s Bada

The third player, Samsung’s Bada, is aiming to bring a new range of smartphones that are affordable and yet feature-rich. The new ‘open’ platform will provide a complete mobile ecosystem for developers through a developer support program.  Just like Microsoft and Nokia, it seems Samsung is hoping its new OS will unify its vast array of electronics from mobile devices and netbooks to TVs.

Justin Hong, vice president of the Service Platform Group at Samsung shares that Bada is designed to run on hardware devices with both high and low specification by being able to scale from lower to higher levels of hardware and is the first of its kind. With Samsung boasting a good product line up to support the new platform, the company’s promise is to provide smartphones for everyone. In a chart displayed at the media launch, Samsung showed the still small but growing smartphone market and said: “We want more of that.”

Samsung has no plans of releasing Bada in the United States claiming the market is just ‘too different’. Bada is apparently being prepared for the Asian and European regions at this time.

Releasing their very own mobile platform, Bada, is an elegant strategy on Samsung’s part which will help increase their global market share. Effectively, they are the first company to introduce a cross-OS platform tying application development not to a specific operating system, but rather their own UI and phone functionality. In the near future this flexibility will help them launch new offerings faster than anyone else and ensure cross-OS compatibility.

Bada features web control, flash control, motion sensing, vibration control and face detection, along with a variety of sensors such as accelerometers, tilt, weather, proximity, and activity, that will support sensor-based context-aware applications. Bada offers native social networking, device synchronization, content management, location-based and commerce services.

Samsung Bada Platform Brand Story

Some thoughts on recent statistics and future projections

Microsoft’s strategic tapping into the exploding gaming market, harnessing the Xbox 360’s technology and user base while at the same time making the OS attractive to the busy professional by presenting vital information in a concise and structured way might just ensure a good entry point of Windows Phone 7 into the market. The company is not leaving anything up to chance and it’s carrier partnerships are far and wide featuring big names from across the world. After the recent series of canceled big dollar projects like Kin and Courier Microsoft surely needs all that and more if it is to swim with the big sharks in the choppy waters of the mobile market.

Nokia and Samsung lead the worldwide mobile device sales to end users in the second quarter of 2010 with 34 and 20 percent respectively. In the smartphone platforms market during the first quarter of 2010 RIM, Apple’s iPhone, and Google’s Android overtook Windows Mobile, and Nokia’s Symbian is still in the lead.

Nokia’s excellent distribution and sales strategies have ensured it the high ground so far; the company however obviously understands that current status quo is very much not a given in these quick sand times.  With Nokia’s smartphone market share being relentlessly eroded by Apple and Android, quickly doing cool new stuff has never been so vital. Embarking on the MeeGo journey aims to attract developers and various ecosystem members to breathe new live into Nokia’s veins, and there are signs the move could be successful.

Samsung seems to be maintaining its mid-tier position by employing a colorful mix of market strategies; it is also not afraid of being one of the first manufacturers bringing Windows Phone 7 units to market. Add to that it’s Bada project and the company seems set to meet the waves of change ready and willing.

Author: Maria Williamson

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