New Operating Systems Birth Pangs

Twenty Years after Windows emergence as the number one Personal Computer Operating System, who would have guessed that their would be birth pangs for new PC OSes? But in loud headlines you have all the detailed scream and angst. Mobile connected devices with ever higher battery life and CPU power[Quad core chips are coming to mobile devices] and more gizmo sensors on board are creating a mix and mash up of devices on a huge scale. Markets and capabilities long separate are now available. The result is a Swiss Army Gadget device amalgams or mashups mixing phone+messaging, gaming, media record/display, still and video cameras, GPS+compass navigation, payments systems, document exchange and Mail with Web browsing plus bigger chunks of plain old PC office work. But the new mobile devices have the advantage of fast response time with touchscreen gestures and audio command smarts . As a result, the low end PC and laptop are in danger of being lapped if not obsoleted by smartphones and tablets.

So now the hue and cry is what OS ecosystem do long time players in all these markets adapt – and how do they get from proprietary there to new OS here without loosing chunks of market share to smartphone and tablet vendors already in their face with gobs of handheld and mobile goodies.

Nokia New OS Cries

Ex-Microsofty Stephen Elop at Nokia is agonizing over what decision to take on the OS for Nokia’s smartphones and tablets. Will it be longstanding standby and recently purchased Symbian? New venture with Intel in nextgen Meego? Latch onto the fastest growing phone and tablet OS, Android? Or link up with the might? of Microsoft Windows Phone 7? Investors will know on Friday as new Nokia CEO Elop outlines plans at an investors conference in London. Could it be a dual-OS strategy or going for fast-growing, low cost, tech savvy Android?

RIM’s Angst Over Right OS

Likewise longtime smartphone leader RIM Blackberry, will have to a)launch successfully its new QNX based Playbook tablet; b)get developers to support QNX in a bigger way than 4,000 apps on PlayBook; and c)decide whether and when its Blackberry OS6 or QNX that should handle smartphones given all the new and fast increasing CPU power available. This involves enormous software changes for RIM. Does the OS  development overload preclude movement on document exchange and electronic payment/wallet systems? Will Apple be able to secure a foothold in RIM’s bastion of corporate shops with its upcoming NFC+payment systems plus iPhone and iPad juggernauts?

Sony Gamely Pushes On

Is it the the PlayStation 2 or the NGP? Is it the Sony Play Station Phone or the Sony Ericsson Xperia. And shhhh… be quite that is Android 2.3 on board and how that fits into the PlayStation Suite. In short, as PlayStation gains its Android footing with NGP and Xperia, Sony appears to have an identity crisis on what PlayStation should be called and do – there are a lot of other Sony products like video, audio, TVs that can be impacted by a smart OS … and Android is a too smart OS??

Garmin Ditches Own OS

Garmin is in a narrow spectrum of the handheld business – GPS navigation, traffic and weather reports. These are services which iPhone and Android users can get for free or with a low cost app. So Garmin has had to expand its business out into more general smartphone services. In the process, Garmin has had to ditch its own OS for Android, and navigate around for a niche in the ultra competitive smartphone space. How does Garmin garner a competitive position in a rapidly evolving me-too mobile slab market? Yep, there are some niches – but find them quickly.

HP Adopts Palm  webOS As Its Own

HP has long lead the way on software innovation for PC. First touchscreens for Windows  back in the mid 1990’s. Then the HPwave Object oriented extension to Windows which Microsoft borrowed for ActiveX and its own Windows object interface. More recently  HP rallied the troops for USB and Wifi suport of its printers and peripherals. And for all these efforts , HP has had to endure a lot of hurry up and waiting to get these innovations fully supported in Windows while competitors caught. No more. HP now has its own OS leverage with the buyout of Palm’s hardware and webOS software. Read here about how HP sees webOS on phones, tablets and PCs.

Microsoft Torn Between Windows 7 and …

But if you think of OS problems , commiserate with Microsoft. El Bloato, also known as Windows 7, is just too big. Windows 7 t requires power sucking hardware and too much memory  to fit in most smartphone and tablet settings right now . So Microsoft is rushing to make Windows 7 ARM-CPU capable so it can run on low power chips. But that only solves the battery life problem which  still leaves tablet and smartphone vendors with the worst OS in terms of security chinks and basic RAM requirements (all of the major tablet contenders run on 1GB of RAM or less). Worse, Windows Phone 7, just fits for tablets [and only in a hacker’s dream on smartphones] but is unable to run any of the Windows software without major altercations. So what does Microsoft do to bridge the two operating systems? Stay tuned there are rumors of a Windows 8 Lite and the ARM-version of Windows may be tuned for tighter memory requirements.

But note this in Nokia-land, all of these are futures – often 1-2 year or longer futures. Also if you look at futures from Redmond they are batting 2 out of 5 if you consider IE7, IE8, IE9, Vista and Windows 7 [and even the winners have been nothing to write home about]. Finally, the vaunted cross platform integration of Windows, already weak among the various Windows Server versions, breaks down almost completely between Windows Phone 7 and Windows 7. And how well will it stand up for the ARM-Windows, only the Shadow and Steve know.

Microsoft can console itself that for big segments of the new tablets market such as dockable tablets and full computing power creative tablets, Apple has obliged and short-changed MacOS on graphics performance, digital stylus and full-screen multi-touch operations. So Windows 7 should do very well thank you here. But that is slim consolation if Android tablets, iPad, and Playbook carve 60-100 million units sold in 2011 out of what has been traditionally Windows PC units sold in the past.

Even Apple Flashes Between MacOS and iOS

What has been most strange for this observer, has been Steve Jobs abandonment of the MacOS platform in favor of iOS4. MacOS has been on the short end of the stick  for graphics performance, support for multi-touch screen operations  plus late integration of iPad and iPhone apps and goodies on the Mac. Passingly strange given that Microsoft has offered up on a platter PC market to Apple for the taking. This has been true  ever since the wave of Windows+IE security disasters followed by the Vista debacle. Apple should have had  a “come on over special pricing” where Apple Macs equivalent in hardware to a PC would be priced at only a 40-60% more  instead of the current  200-400% premium.But hey ,who can argue with the man that made iPhones worth 50% of Apple sales and more than tripled overall revenues, profits and stock value.

And Google Still Gives Its OS Away for Free

Google is driving the development of its Android OS at more than double the pace of Apples iOS for its iDevices. Yes, Google has had to catch up with iPhone and now iPad. It also has to fend off Microsoft Windows Phone 7 – it has to be maybe deliver  20-35% more and better features than Windows to keep Redmond at bay. But except for a few services, Google does not charge Dell, HTC, Motorola, Samsung and dozens of other vendors for its Android OS. And the OS is Open Source. Any user can change the OS and many of the previously mentioned vendors do. So  how does Google make money on this proposition? Well Google provides a wealth of other moneymaking services on Android  like You Tube, Google Apps, Google Maps, and many others. And of course its Google ads business is allowed to be used unhampered on Android. So Android is in one sense  a guarantee that Google gets to stay in the lucrative ad business on the new emerging mobile environs.

While Developers Feast and Fret

Developers have mixed emotions on the new  Operating Systems. On one hand new  development opportunities not seen since the days of DOS and early Mac/Windows have opened up.  Over 1/2 million apps among Apple iOS and Google Android operating systems alone have been developed in the past 3 years. These  mean money in the bank for many developing houses- but the access to markets plus prices and margins are now controlled to a great extent by the OS vendors be that Apple’s App Store or Google’s or Microsoft’s.  This App Store approval and tithing process is a distinct departure from the old PC software marketing model and a source of concern for developers.

But fortunately for developers there is another revenue side to the Mobile Wave. Web+Mobile shops are  bringing organization and other existing clients over from Web-PC-only to broader mobile based operations. This Mobile Migration or broadening has spawned an industry of mobile cottages varying in size and expertise as the mobile wave ripples through business and society to increasing mobile adoption just like PCs of 25 years ago. Largely lead by consumers through social media and other new collaboration modes; the mobile wave is  first   from consumers to increasingly committed business and other organizations. Mobile is another bottoms up process of change.

But consider the challenges. The rate of change in the mobile world  is so fast that Apple iPad, a clear market leader when it was launched in March 2010, is now a distinctly behind such new tablets as Mototrola’s Android based Xoom or RIM’s QNX-based Playbook or HP’s webOS -based TouchPad. Apples iPad is in need of a major refresh in less than a years time on the market. And these devices sport such new sensors and associated functionality as accelerometer, barometer, still and video cameras gyroscope, GPS, compass, proximity triggers along with a range of communication and networking protocols.

So consider the problem that developers now have – fast and profound change in two dimensions:
1)the number of operating system environs has grown from 3 PC primaries [Windows, MacOS, and Linux] to at least 4 more Apple iOS, Google Android, Rim QNX and HP webOS;
2)the number of programming languages and databases needed has also doubled -adding Objective C, Dalvik Java, Flash ActionScript 3 and HTML5 with its Canvas and SVG programming extensions to stalwarts such as C/C++ in many flavors, Java, ASP, PHP. Ruby, Perl, JavaScript among the most prominent PC and Web languages. And to a core of SQL database scripting languages for IBM DB2, Oracle, MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, and Sybase Server among others add Hadoop, SQLite,and a host of IndexedDb scripts . Just choosing let alone mastering these diverse programming tools is touch enough; but with new routines for multi-touch+screen gestures; sensor tracking and event actions; new communication and collaboration mechanisms; plus added security and  reliability enforcement development tasks are ever more demanding given that the time to develop and deliver is shrinking. In sum, developers have much to learn and fret about.

And IT Shops Tremble

IT shops tremble at the mobile wave approaching. They forsee the same security and reliability problems that came with the last 2 personal computing waves – the move to GUI based PCs networked  on LANs and then outward Web connectivity explosion. The latter has meant monthly Tuesday patches, constant security updates to both servers and PC clients, and a host of outages and data thefts of ever larger scale. Now the mobile wave means at least 4 new and untested operating systems plus  associated offline and cloud database connections. And given the upcoming move to mobile payment systems, CIOs and CEOs are concerned about how to control the diverse theft risks associated with the mobile wave.  And as dockable tablets become more more mobile and document-tap-and -exchange driven these threats of data theft already seen in laptops appears more But also get mastery over new modes of social collaboration are also top priority. If a largely bloodless revolution in Egypt could be organized if note expedited by mobile social media – this is