Just when it looked like an iPhone-Android-BlackBerry troika was shaping up, Microsoft and Nokia each tries one last shot.
But I can easily see that in 2011 WinPhone might be a real force within the smartphone market, threatening the innovative but low-traction Palm WebOS most, but also Google's Android OS.
WinPhone appeals to the same 20-something crowd as those two operating systems, but has business credibility as well thanks to its Office and Outlook support and legacy of enterprise-class manageability and security.
Neither WebOS nor Android can be used in any serious business context due to poor security and management features.
And WinPhone could emerge as a compelling alternative to the iPhone, given its 20-something hook.
In the business context, WinPhone likely will be more enterprise-class in its manageability and security - but I wonder if the 20-something UI of WinPhone will counteract its attractiveness to older business users and relegate WinPhone to a Zunish niche.
MeeGo: Should anyone care?
Nokia has been sleepwalking for years when it comes to smartphones.
Sure, Nokia is the largest mobile phone vendor in the world, but its phones aren't that smart.
They're roughly equivalent to RIM's BlackBerry, with a clunky Windows 3.1-style UI, limited web capabilities, few apps, and not much to offer for music, video, or gaming aficionados.
And for business users, Nokia's manageability and security capabilities are weak.
Last year, Nokia announced it was relegating its Symbian OS to lower-end 'feature phones', mobiles that offer one or two smart capabilities in a proprietary, awkward package.
You don't see these devices show up at all in app store market share or web usage statistics. At best their owners use them as cheap MP3 players when they're not talking or texting, and convince themselves that the touchscreen or YouTube player makes them 'smart'.
A new operating system called Maemo, to be released on Nokia smartphones in the next few years, was to take the Symbian OS's place as Nokia's platform for entering the real smartphone market.
An open source Linux-based platform, Maemo is very much like desktop Linux in that it uses common Linux frameworks such as the Linux kernel, Debian, and Gnome, with drivers for various Nokia devices (a series of Nokia 'internet tablets' that debuted in 2005). That was Nokia's slow-motion strategy in 2009.
At the same time, Intel has been stumbling about with Moblin, an open source Linux-derived operating system, for a couple years.
The idea was to create a mobile Linux that could run on a variety of devices, such as netbooks, smartphones, and vehicle entertainment systems. It's enjoyed the same success as desktop Linux - not much.
Although there's a common Linux core to Moblin, developers quickly have to specialise their Moblin efforts to a specific driver/UI combination chosen for each device.
Thus, it's less of a platform than a common technology stack approach. Much of the focus at the Moblin community - such as it is - has been on netbook development, not smartphones.
In fact, there are no real smartphones based on Moblin, and very few Moblin netbooks (MSI has one) or Moblin apps.
NEXT PAGE: What's the point of MeeGo?
- Microsoft and Nokia have another crack at the market
- A force to be reckoned with in 2011
- What's the point of MeeGo?