The Battle Today for What You Can Do on Your Phone Tomorrow

March 6, 2008 at 3:45 am (technology) (, )

There are a couple of announcements Tuesday that point to a major technological battle: the race to become the platform for mobile applications. This is happening at two levels. There are mobile operating systems like Symbian, Windows Mobile, Apple’s mobile version of OS X and Google’s forthcoming Android. And there are environments that live above the operating system that are meant to allow applications to run on multiple operating systems.

Sun’s Java is the leader in this area now. Adobe’s Flash Lite is a contender. Microsoft said Tuesday that that it was developing a mobile version of Silverlight (its answer to Flash). And Google is creating a mobile version of Google Gears, its software that lets online applications work when they are not connected to the Internet.

For these companies, there is potentially real money at stake. With 1 billion phones made each year, even a tiny licensing fee for software on each one can add up. And there is also money to be made selling development software as well.

For consumers, the stakes are much higher. This jostling will determine what your mobile phone will be able to do, and who will control it. These rich environments have the potential to offer capabilities that bypass the control of the carriers who want to charge fees for features that might otherwise be free. See our discussion of how Verizon blocks Google’s mobile mapping software from getting data from the GPS system built into some phones. Read the rest of this entry »

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