Which smartphone operating systems ("OS") are currently in play, how do they rate, and what Android OS market share statistics are there?
Helping to frame this question, Choice, the Australian consumer magazine and online service, has published its latest mobile phone analysis titled Touchscreen mobile phones review (registration required).
The question interests us as lawyers who draft contracts and advise on intellectual property for content owners and developers of mobile phone apps.
Competition in mobile phone apps and OS is shaping the current and future profits of developers of applications and content owners.
Publishers of content may have their base in software, music, videos, books, newspaper articles, professional publications or elsewhere.
Each publisher must prioritise app development work. The more OS they decide to cater for, the higher is their product development cost. They must monitor OS market share trends.
To anwer the question of OS market share the extensive Choice review includes the up-to-date bullet point overview below. It's just a start, a succinct frame.
It makes clear the emerging current pattern of competition between OS vendors - Nokia, Apple, Microsoft, Google and RIM (owner of the Blackberry OS).
It also indicates which phone suppliers are lined up with Android (HTC, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Samsung and LG), with Nokia having this month become a buddy of Microsoft's Windows 7.
"The Symbian OS is the oldest OS, and until recently the most widely used, and is now generally only found in Nokia phones. Symbian is starting to fall behind the latest Android and Apple OS versions, with Nokia announcing it will use Windows Mobile 7 in future smartphones.
The Blackberry OS has a reputation for secure business functionality with support for multiple email accounts; however, the other phone OS are catching up in this regard.
The iPhone OS 4 has gained a significant share of the smartphone market since being introduced. However, it is only optimised for the iPhone 3GS and 4.
Windows Mobile 7 has a familiar Microsoft Windows look and feel, however the Windows Mobile share of the smartphone market is only just reestablishing itself after being overrun by Apple and Google’s Android OS.
Google’s Android OS is an open source OS, allowing developers to add functionality to phones without having to pay for a licence. After a slow start in 2009 with less than 10% of the market, Android-based smartphones now account for 33% of all sales and have taken over from Symbian as the most widely available smartphone OS. The OS is now available on phone models from HTC, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Samsung and LG. The Google Nexus S has the latest Android OS 2.3 (Gingerbread), while most of the other Android based phones are operating on 2.1 (Eclair) or 2.2 (Froyo)."
It is in this environment that content owners and their developers of mobile phone applications need to make their business decisions before hiring lawyers to assess IP issues and review or draft contracts.