How many smartphone mobile operating systems can the market support? Wrong question. In a market of billions of potential devices with limited network effects  and hyper-growth demand the market could support lots of smartphone mobile operating systems – where lots is defined as greater than six and less than twenty. The limiting factor is not demand but rather supply. How many companies can build a competitive mobile OS? The fire sale of Palm and the launch of Blackberry Torch makes it clear that the list of companies that have the skills and resources to build, launch, and sustain a competitive mobile OS is getting smaller each month. Watching this playout feels like watching the top riders in the Tour de France fight their way to the top of Col du Tourmalet — each and every year only the most talented riders keep pace as the ride becomes absolutely grueling.
Companies are starting to fall by the wayside as the stacked teams of Apple, Google, and soon Microsoft take firm control of the race.
Lets look at a checklist of capabilities one needs to launch a competitive mobile OS. Half way down this list you will realize that very few companies have assembled a deep and wide enough talent pool to execute a smartphone mobile os on a global scale.
|What you need||What it gets you|
|Visual appeal||Potential differentiation|
|Games, Games, and Games||(1) Acquisition (great games sell devices)
(2) Lock-In (spend creates switching costs)
|20,000 Quality Apps||Parity|
|Discovery & Merchandising||Easy & trust worthy|
|Music||Lock-In (spend creates switching costs)|
|TV show rentals||Engagement|
|HTML5 + CSS3 Compliant Browser||Parity|
Carrier financial incentive via revenue share
|Voice Search||Cool demo|
|Maps (limited number of suppliers)||Utility + parity|
|Navigation (limited number of suppliers)||Utility + parity|
|Utility + parity|
|PIM Services||Utility + parity|
|One Click Buy (micro transactions)||Parity + Frictionless commerce|
|Global (90+ markets)||Utility + parity|
|Fraud Mgmt||Utility + parity|
|$250M consumer marketing||Consumer awareness.
Percieved momentum for developers
|$50M App developer launch||Studio compensation to seed app library and app competitions|
|Devices & Distribution|
|#1 and/or #2 Carrier in top 20 markets (first yr)||Market coverage|
|3 to 4 OEM’s building 8 million devices (first yr)||Consumer choice of mid to high-end devices|
|Developers, Developers, Developers!|
|Popular IDE||App quality
Time to market
|Deep SDK||Device access (e.g. camera, acceleramator)
UI (e.g. animation, controls)
Service access (e.g. maps, contacts, mails)
|Employee device & app provisioning||Parity|
 Limited Network Effects: During the PC war application developers propelled Windows PC to its monopoly position – users adopted the OS with the widest range of applications and developers adopted the platform with the most users. In the mobile smartphone OS war the top 20,000 apps that matter will be replicated to the top five mobile os platforms in each market or region muting the possible network effects because the development costs are relatively low.