In 2005, Nokia was the dominant player in the mobile phone market with was no end in sight. Today, Nokia is being sold off in pieces and it's hard to see what could possibly topple Samsung and Apple.
But Dr. Ronald Klingebiel, a professor at Warwick Business School, says that neither company is safe. A new crop of "cloud" smartphone operating systems are in the works and they offer these advantages:
- Tons of apps. Apps would be written for the cloud, not a particular phone, similar to how PC cloud apps run in the browser on any PC like Windows, Macs or Linux.
- Affordable phones: when the app runs in the cloud, the phones wouldn't need fast processors or a lot of memory, which would make them cheaper to produce.
Business Insider: There are a lot of alternative operating systems, which ones do you think are most likely to be successful and why?
Ronald Klingebiel: All four take an approach that would make apps interoperable across, so in that sense, all four can be successful. It’s just that the companies behind them cannot expect anymore to generate the sort of profits that Apple has been generating from vertically integrating handsets-OS-app store.
Each entrant takes a slightly different angle. Tizen could benefit from a Samsung all-in. Firefox aims to build a base at the low end of the market. Ubuntu aims to leverage the Linux PC community and unify phone and computing device. Sailfish pitches to aficionados, who appreciated Nokia’s and MeeGo’s quality solutions.
Collectively they stand to capture a sizable piece of the market before too long.
BI: What part of the existing smartphone market do they threaten, high-end, low-end, feature phones? Why?
RK: All are smartphone OS. But soon, smartphones might turn to dumb phones that provide access to a smart cloud, i.e. apps on cellphones are just links to programs run in the cloud. No fancy processor needed. If this becomes the standard means of accessing apps on phones, it will impact all segments of the current smartphone market.
BI: When do you think these new phones will start to show their influence on the market?
RK: This development is still in its infancy and its success not guaranteed. But it could take off quickly. If only one big vendor, say Lenovo, committed to one of the new operating systems, it would boost the whole crop. Mobile operators are also keen to shake up the status quo. And big app developers such as Facebook may start to insist on writing apps only once (in standardized, interoperable programming language), leaving Apple and Google little choice but to open up their app stores. Disruptions have a knack of taking incumbents by surprise.
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