Here’s an interesting story. Six companies in Japan are joining forces to create a common software platform for mobile phones. Four manufacturers (including Sharp and Panasonic) will be working with Japans biggest mobile operator and a chip-set maker. While they don’t explicitly call it a “mobile operating system” the software platform would allow devices to run applications, play movies and display advanced graphics – and they even plant to make it available for other handset manufacturers.
What’s the story?
Details are a little fuzzy on this one, but what we do know paints a marvelously interesting picture:
- The four manufacturers are Sharp, Panasonic, NEC and Fujitsu, and the chip-set maker is Renesas Electronics.
- The mobile operator is NTT DoCoMo. The “platform” that these companies will be making is supposedly intended to power the high-end mobile devices that the carrier will be selling next year.
- The reason for this co-operation is to lower development costs for all the companies involved. It will give them a common platform to create and release products from.
- The platform is being designed for compatibility with both Linux and Symbian.
- It is supposed to be ready by early 2012.
What we think?
Some sources refer to this as a mobile operating system in its own right, but it seems that “software platform” is more accurate. It is supposed to be able to run with either Symbian or Linux – which give it access to Nokia phones, as well as the same kernel that Android is based on. It seems likely that this would be something like a software client that runs on an already existing mobile OS, and allows the device to run whatever applications or services have been developed for it.
It is also possible that this is an entirely new mobile operating system being developed, as an alternative to Android. “But why would they need an alternative to the one-and-only Open Source mobile OS?” you may ask. Because while Android is extremely open and friendly for developers, it is EXTREMELY LESS SO if you are a mobile handset maker. The Google-created OS is easy to develop for, but can be quite restrictive to place on a handset (check out this VisionMobile blog for further details on that particular aspect of Android).
Let us imagine that you are a Japanese mobile phone manufacturer, and you want to expand to overseas markets. There are many manufacturers in Japan that are big indigenously, but practically unknown beyond their native shores. As the mobile phone market becomes increasingly competitive, working together has become more of a necessity – we saw a great example of that during the Casio, NEC and Hitachi merger last year. Lacking the brute economic strength to effect a global expansion individually, these companies need to band together to release phones and services abroad. And that means having a common platform. So you can easily understand why they might want to create their own common platform, rather than having to jump through hoops for Google.