Does A Multiple-OS Strategy Make Sense For Smartphone Manufacturers?

The players in the smartphone OS market that we talk about most often at Lifehacker - iOS and Android — essentially work on a "one platform to rule them all" strategy, and seem to do pretty well out of it. But does that mean that every manufacturer should follow that template?

I was at a briefing on Nokia's future plans in Sydney today. Local MD Chris Carr was keen to emphasise that there's no immediate plans to dump Symbian, despite Nokia's much-vaunted partnership with Microsoft to produce Windows Phone 7 devices. Symbian phones will be hitting the market until at least 2012, and work on MeeGo is also continuing.

Carr made the point that many manufacturers continue to support a diverse range of phone OSes, pointing to BlackBerry's triple-OS strategy for the Playbook as an example. "It's not unusual for manufacturers to have multiple OS strategies," he said.

Having diverse OSes means that different user needs can be met, but increases maintenance expenses. Developers are also likely to concentrate on the most popular platforms.

Anyway, I'm wondering what readers think. Is offering a range of smartphone platforms good business practice, or should companies like Nokia focus their resources more? Tell us (and tell us why) in the comments.


Comments

    Nokia were on to a good thing with the Linux distro on the N900. I know this only second hand from my uber linux nerd, so forgive any innacuracies in my story here.
    But he was impressed with the N900's release and linux community's support for the device even after nokia dropped the OS and further development for it.
    He then advised me that despite all this, the linux community still continued to develop for it and it remained an outstanding and frequently updated and improved device.
    He has since switched to android because he couldnt get the N900 on the nextG network, but still...

    I think it is a good thing, It's a 'Don't put all your eggs into one basket' kinda thing, and a just in case one OS becomes unpopular or unprofitable.
    However, then it means they'll less likely be competitive against those manufacturers that are dedicated to one platform.

    Usually it just means 2 poorly implemented vanilla operating systems.
    They should just stick with one story and do it well.

    As a current N900 User, I have to agree with Jason. I picked up an Android device recently but after a month went back to the N900. Despite the older hardware (now) and chunkier design the software is just outstanding. With a bit more polish Nokia was really onto a winner. In particular as a single device it still has hundreds of open source applications availible, so before it even gets an app store I can still get FREE software that isn't filled with Ads (my major gripe with iOS & Android) and that's just as a single "experimental" device.

    "Having diverse OSes means that different user needs can be met" - I agree but a way not to "increases maintenance expenses" is to open the platform. If you supply the phones with one of: Win 7 or Symbian or Mameo, allow the community to develop one of the others (Android or Linux) for it.

    The only method for community development at the moment is "hacking" the phone... Jailbreak etc.

      As Phones and computers cross over more and more, at some point we have to come to confront the fact: phones tend to be forcibly locked to an OS while computers tend not to be.

      In the same way I can buy a dell with FreeDOS on it and install whatever I like instead, a phone/tablet with a minimal free OS and no restrictions to installing what you like would be great. It'd be hell to advertise though.

    And here's another happy N900 user. Jason and Alex are right. It is still hard to find anything better after 18 months has elapsed from its original release.

    All Nokia's problems are homegrown. If Nokia just had continued developing Maemo (N900's OS) and put it on prettier devices like Nokia E7, C7 and N8, they would have no problems whatsoever.

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