Much has changed in the world of handset operating systems since 2003. The mobile software market has grown into a landscape of hundreds of vendors where understanding the roles, functionality, lines of partnership and competition across software products is a complex endeavour, even for a seasoned industry observer. This paper aims to help change that.
The whitepaper presents the key layers of the handset operating system software stack today and explains the importance of application execution environments (AEEs) and UI frameworks, which several specialist vendors are producing as standalone products.
Some of the common misperceptions in the software market of 2006 are examined and we discuss the suggestion that it is a 'flexible OS', more so than an 'open OS', which the industry really requires. The paper also examines the myth and reality behind Linux for mobile phones, and the false start but continued efforts around J2ME.
The whitepaper reviews 15 software vendors which we believe to be major players in their respective software segments, from those offering full end-to-end operating systems to providers of UI frameworks, AEEs and OS kernels. These products are A la Mobile platform, Access Linux Platform, Adobe Flash Lite, GTK+, MiniGUI, Mizi Prizm, MontaVista Mobilinux, Nokia S60, Obigo Suite, Openwave MIDAS, Qualcomm BREW, SavaJe, Symbian OS, Trolltech Qtopia and Windows Mobile. Reviews provide product background, positioning, technology and summaries the company's strategy moving forward.
We see several trends emerging within the mobile software market. Software flexibility versus openness will be a critical theme for successful operating systems. Secondly, as the sale value line moves towards middleware and upper software layers, so the core OS technology will commoditise. Thirdly, technology verticalisation is gradually taking place, with vendors merging or partnering to offer out-of-the-box pre-integrated software stacks. In symmetry, the demand for software platforms is consolidating, with not only manufacturers, but also enterprises and mobile operators making a choice of platform.
We believe that 2006 marks a turning point in the history of Linux as a mobile phone platform, not only due to Motorola's recent commitment, but also the wealth of products and support services from a growing commercial community. Longer term, we believe Linux-based platforms will prevail over many of today's credible contestants.