Smartphones, the new Gold Rush?

Background

There is something about mobile devices that makes them defect by design: developers always try to replicate the metaphorical interface of a personal computer. This best laid plan is always thwarted by the credit card-size of the touch-sensitive screen and the physical impossibility of adding a mouse and a full-size keyboard. The result is a visual mess of microscopic icons and buttons that can barely be interacted with through a cumbersome stylus.

Despite their limited computing capabilities, precursors of mobile devices such as the Psion organiser, the Blackberry, the Nokia 9000 each met with commercial success in their times. Rich in features, the early Apple Newton allegedly failed due to being poorly marketed, bulky and expensive. By 2000, Microsoft entered the market to compete against leading Symbian licensed OS with its lineage, eventually climbing to the modest 2nd position in 2007.

Market share

As early as 2001, Neonode of Sweden started to work on an improved interface layer for Windows Mobile. By then, the mobile phone had taken off. With the increasing digitization of media, the democratization of wireless networks and the convergence of devices, companies yearned for a way to control the software, an elegant way of coercing brand loyalty. Realizing the amount of resources needed to start development from scratch, most resolved to jump on the open source (read: free) bandwagon of mature technologies such as Java, Linux and GTK+. By mid-2005, several collaborative or solo Linux-based operating system were
announced.

Number of mobile connections (credit: MOA, www.mobilemastinfo.com)

Number of mobile connections

After an unsuccessfull collaboration with Motorola, Apple Inc. decided to enter this blossoming market by keeping a strong grip on hardware and software. Synaptics presented a touch phone concept in August 2006 and LG released a [1]. Voted Invention of the Year by Time magazine, the iPhone was a clever implementation of interactive finger-operated interfaces. By keeping a strong grip on the iPhone hardware and software, Apple Inc. secured brand loyalty, sending the competition back to the drawing boards.

[1]: The author does neither own stock, products
nor software licenses of Apple Inc.

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