Mobile Device Operating System Wars: Android vs. iOS vs. Windows Mobile

April 27, 2012  - By 0 Comments

Following up on my” Mobile Devices Galore” column a couple of weeks ago, one predominant question I hear reverberating across all industries with geospatial apps on mobile devices is “what is the mobile device operating system of the future?”

After years of relatively benign evolution, the mobile device market (smart phone, tablet, handheld) is changing really quickly, and it’s really making geospatial users think hard about which device and operating system to deploy.

I think it’s safe to say that if there were enough apps available for the Android platform, Android would clearly be the geospatial operating system of choice. There are a myriad of smart phones and cheap tablet computers running Android that consumers are eating up and geospatial users are salivating over. Unlike Apple with their iOS, Google will license Android to almost anyone so hardware manufacturers like Samsung are flocking to Android. One would think this might be déjà vu for Apple a la Microsoft Windows.

However, the fact is that there’s not much in the way of geospatial apps for Android, yet.

Almost all geospatial apps in existence today are built for Windows Mobile, but most people I’ve spoken to aren’t convinced that Microsoft is committed to Windows Mobile. The follow on to Windows Mobile 6.5 called Windows Embedded Handheld. You might think that Windows Phone 7 is the follow-on to Windows Mobile 6.5, but the problem is that apps have to be re-written for Windows Phone 7 while the software development environment for Windows Embedded Handheld is the same/similar as/to Windows Mobile 6.5. Following is a video explaining Microsoft’s mobile device strategy for Windows:

Almost all geospatial apps in existence today are built for Windows Mobile, but most people I’ve spoken to aren’t convinced that Microsoft is committed to Windows Mobile. The follow on to Windows Mobile 6.5 called Windows Embedded Handheld. You might think that Windows Phone 7 is the follow-on to Windows Mobile 6.5, but the problem is that apps have to be re-written for Windows Phone 7 while the software development environment for Windows Embedded Handheld is the same/similar as/to Windows Mobile 6.5. Following is a video explaining Microsoft’s mobile device strategy for Windows:

Dual Boot?

We have a problem. We need mobile devices to support Windows Mobile, for now, due to the wide number of apps available for that operating system. However, we aren’t sure of Microsoft’s committment to Windows Mobile in the future and it seems Android has a tremendous amount of momentum, How many IT people have you seen with dual boot Windows/Linux? It makes me think about a dual boot mobile device…Windows Mobile and Android. But, that could get ugly pretty quickly since average consumer is not going to be interested in this. Without the benefit of consumer acceptance of what we use for a mobile device, we are back to where we started, stuck with a few niche suppliers that produce high-priced mobile devices specifically for the geospatial industries.

I can dream about dual boot, but I doubt it will happen.

Which Mobile Device Operating systems will survive and flourish?

Earlier this month, technology research firm Gartner, Inc. issued a report detailing the results of their research on tablet computer operating systems. While it’s not completely indicative of smart phone and handheld operating systems, I think it’s a very good indicator of where things are headed.

Following is a table summarizing the results of their research by operating system.

Worldwide Sales of Media Tablets to End Users by OS (Thousands of Units):
OS 2011 2012 2013 2016
iOS 39,998 72,988 99,553 169,652
Android 17,292 37,878 61,684 137,657
Microsoft 0 4,863 14,547 43,648
QNX (RIM) 807 2,643 6,036 17,836
Other OS 1,919 510 637 464
Total 60,017 118,883 182,457 369,258

If you’d like to read a detailed article about their results and report, click here.

Is Apple’s iOS really going to continue to dominate?

I wish I would have bought Apple stock a few years ago. Apple is a serious cash machine, earning more profit than even ExxonMobile, thus becoming the most profitable company in the world.

However, with their closed system, it smacks of the Mac vs. Windows battle of 20+ years ago of which Apple clearly lost. Can a closed operating system like iOS maintain its dominance? I doubt it, I really doubt it. Apple has been on a great run, but even from the table above, one can clearly see that Android is projected to grow faster.

While I’m reasonably sure iOS isn’t going to be a long-term dominator, I’m not so sure about Android vs. Windows Embedded. As we saw with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer going from zero to hero in a short period of time, Microsoft has the ability to focus a tremendous amount of resources to tackle a market if they choose. They could do it with Windows Embedded, if they choose.

Thanks, and see you next week.

Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/GPSGIS_Eric

This article is tagged with , , , , and posted in GSS Monthly, Mobile Devices, Opinions, Technology
Eric Gakstatter

About the Author:

Eric Gakstatter has been involved in the GPS/GNSS industry for more than 20 years. For 10 years, he held several product management positions in the GPS/GNSS industry, managing the development of several medium- and high-precision GNSS products along with associated data-collection and post-processing software. Since 2000, he's been a power user of GPS/GNSS technology as well as a consultant with capital management companies; federal, state and local government agencies; and private companies on the application and/or development of GPS technology. Since 2006, he's been a contributing editor to GPS World magazine and the Geospatial Solutions website. He is the editor of Geospatial Solutions Monthly, a weekly newsletter focused on geospatial technologies. Follow Eric on Twitter at @GPSGIS_Eric.

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