2008. An attempted mobile market summary

After my angry post about the Software of existing Linux phones, I want to write down my expectations for 2008.

It's been really interesting to watch the stream of announcements during the last months, just to give you a few keywords: OpenMoko, Qtopia becomes OpenSource, Android, Azingo…, Nokia buying Trolltech…

Quite a lot going on, and we can expect, that there is a new kind of jungle growing like the jungle of Linux distributions on the Desktop—but as cellphone/smartphone market differs a lot from PC market, it will be really interesting who will be really successful as there are many factors: Hardware producers, Operators, the OpenSource community… and, last but not least: consumers.

Why do I put consumers at the back? Well, they are very important for success, as they are “creating” the demand for phones, but: I don't know many people that really use their phone for more then some calls and SMS, listening to music and playing some funny Java games.

Do you need a Linux based phone for that? Sad to tell, but if you aren't a kind of geek, you don't—and I think that is the reason why the two manufacturers I was angry at created there phone stacks as they did: Let's have Linux as a cheap platform that decreases RnD expenses and looks just like other phone interfaces do, is quite adjustable for us, has a nice JavaVM for additional “software”.

Somehow in 2007 the market changed a bit in this point, I really think that the iPhone showed people (consumers and developers) that you can do more with a phone than that I described a few lines above (not because the iPhone is that great—I don't want to talk about it—but maybe because of Apples' great marketing). Operators like(d) that, I think, because Mobile Internet is a thing they've tried to push for a long time, but besides of businessmen and geeks nobody really used these services.

Let's go back to the beginning of 2007: OpenMoko was already announced, Apple announced the iPhone (and you could hear a “big bang”, long flamewars in forums about mobile phones).

Then, in autumn, Motorola announced MotomagX (with a linux SDK(!)), GPhoneAndroid was announced.. and in 2008 this happened: Nokia bought Trolltech (and Motorola announced to switch over to GTK, which is also preferred by LiMo-Foundation, OpenMoko and others (GTK and WebKit appear to be the big players…)) and there are several announcements of new platforms or phones based on Linux every week, we can be absolutely sure that there will be a bunch of Linux phones in late 2008.

But who will win? Well, it depends on marketing, operators and consumers, and I really think that Android will be quite a success (what doesn't mean that I like it) as there are many powerful companies behind it. Motorola… well, we can't even be sure whether they will continue to build mobile phones (I can't imagine a cellphone market without them, BTW) and they've got a multiplatform strategy: Linux (Android (maybe on announced new Qualcomm powered phonesm as QC is an OpenHandset member) and LiMo), Symbian UIQ, Windows Mobile and a little bit of there own old proprietary os, some other cheap solutions, exspecially aimed to bring 3G technology to the poorer parts of the world... OpenMoko, I hope they'll be able to gain some market shares big enough to survive, as I really like there open philosophy and as they're completely right, that phones will be pocket computers (in a better way than “PocketPCs”).

There will be much innovation in the market, I can imagine an x86-powered Smartphone in 2009, and lots of phones ultra ultra mobile computers with fast data services and big bright screens, which will hopefully have good enough power management to be useful as a mobile device.

With hindsight (May 2021):

This analysis is not worth much, but it shows that the market was quite crowded with commercial attempts to build new Linux-based mobile platforms. Today, all of this can be assumed to have been drowned out by Android.