Sunday, May 07, 2006

WINQUAL = WINTEL for Smartphone?

Microsoft announcement of its partnership with Qualcomm to push its presence in smartphone segment signals start of smartphone war between Nokia (S60 Platform) and Microsoft (Midowsmobile) to dominate the future huge smartphone market. This is good to consumers as competation drives down the cost and thus making it affordable to majority of population. As I had mentioned in my earlier blog mobile web 2.0 -2, that one of the key drivers is horizontalisation of both hardware and software platform for smartphones.This Microsoft announcement fits very well to this driver.

Nokia totally dominates today’s small but growing smartphone market with 70 % market share (smartphone segments includes handhelds also i.e. iPalq, palm pilots, Blackberry).With rest 30 % split between many players like RIM, Palm and other Microsoft platform based devices (both smart phone and pocket pc devices).It has always been predicated that it would be tough for Nokia to maintain that high percentages in future as smartphone markets expands. But according to me there were no serious threats apart of some minor challenges that have been suggested like Linux, Microsoft etc. The real problem has been that none have total E2E capabilities like Nokia (i.e. both Sw platform and HW knowledge and integration expertise).

For Linux real problem as is the case in PC industry is its too open and requires serious commitments to back it up from some big players to make it really happen .Big players are required because it requires long term investments and ability to make industry wide partnerships both hardware and SW so that some kind of minimum agreed standard otherwise the market would be fragmented and would not been seen as one platform .As of toady I don’t see any signs happening in this direction .Of course you might have heard some announcements here and there like Montavisata initiative etc but none of them have capabilities that I mentioned before to make Linux a real threat in smartphone segment .Having said that Linux may be real option in feature phone segment(i.e. below hundred dollar phone ).Were device manufactures may tie up with Linux vendors like trolltech or develop a their own flavor of Linux version to replace their existing in house OS which are becoming more difficult to maintain and add features as costs in this segments are falling down .Motorola for example is shipping low end phones with Linux .I expect this to continue in other device manufacturers also .So in short Linux in smartphone segment may not be real player at least in short term .

Now coming back to Microsoft the topic of this blog, I think with qualcomm partnership announcement they have moved one very big step in right direction to give real challenge to Nokia .The real problem in making smartphone has been SW platform integration with HW platform and this not only consume most of the time and costs, but adds little direct value to end user unlike new features additions. The only solution to this issue is by driving HW and SW platform horizontalisation and also to make base porting layer(layer that talks to hw platform and needs to be changes with changes in HW) with SW platform deliverables to device vendors this is exactly what Microsoft announcement does .So any device manufacturer may buy qualcomm chipset and take Microsoft platform which will include base port layer and make a smartphone in small amt of time and without much in house expertise in hw and SW integration work. This is especially required for Microsoft since its pure SW company and don’t ship them selves any devices and rely upon other device manufactures and bringing down cost for these partners is major criteria and this announcements helps in that .And also with its partnership with qualcomm Microsoft is trying to create some thing similar to WINTEL for smartphone only difference this time is instead of WINTEL it is “WINQUAL”. But is this going to have same kind success I think it has quite good potential but at the same time it is starting the race from behind Nokia (S60 with TI, ST Microelectronics, FreeScale, and Intel) who has great lead already in the race .So let’s see what happens but at this moment of time my money is with Nokia.

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