Boring iOS 6, Android 'Jelly Bean' will rule in 2013

Apple's and Google's mobile OSes are entering a maturity phase, while the competition hasn't found its footing

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Both the Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10 OSes require all-new hardware, unlike iOS 6 and Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean."

BlackBerry 10 also won't work with the widely deployed current version of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), nor will the new BES -- called BlackBerry Device Service (BDS) -- support the Version 5 through 7 BlackBerrys that comprise today's BlackBerry installed base. You'll need to run both BES and BDS unless you retire all your existing BlackBerrys. The only good news in this muddle is that RIM will offer a Web-based console called BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 that lets you manage the two servers from one interface, as well as manage RIM's very basic Universal Device Console server (aka Mobile Fusion) that essentially replicates the free Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) capabilities in Microsoft Exchange to manage iOS and Android devices, but not at the level of an MDM tool such as those from AirWatch, Good, and MobileIron.

In other words, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10 are do-over mobile OSes, lacking the solid base of iOS or Android -- and Windows and OS X. We're approaching year six of the mobile revolution spawned by the iPhone; two platforms have become mature, and two others are still trying to figure out what they want to be. It's pretty clear what that means: Users and the market will continue to deepen their ties to iOS and Android, Windows Phone will struggle to take root, and BlackBerry will struggle to reroot in its transplanted form.

Windows Phone has a shot, given that businesses will allow Microsoft the benefit of the doubt longer than most vendors. But even with security and management finally baked in, Windows Phone 8 is likely to suffer the same issue seen in all prior versions of Windows Phone: the weak app capabilities in its widget-oriented environment. The BlackBerry platform historically has not been app-friendly, so few users or developers have thought of it much beyond messaging and basic Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes connectivity. RIM says BlackBerry 10 is app-friendly, but no one knows for sure yet if that promise is true -- or even relevant at this stage.

A core set of iOS apps has grown increasingly sophisticated and desktoplike, and some are migrating to Android. Whether you believe the tablet will replace the PC some day or simply become a common adjunct, capable apps matter. Neither Windows Phone nor BlackBerry have them. The apps that come with Windows 8's tablet-oriented Metro environment -- a version of the Metro environment in Windows Phone -- are beautiful but not very capable, especially when compared to their iOS and even Android counterparts. That doesn't inspire any faith that Windows Phone 8's apps will be any better.

And can we all admit that the open source WebOS will be at best a hobbyist platform for a few thousand enthusiasts and the open source Tizen will follow the same "go nowhere slowly" fate as its LiMo, Maemo, and MeeGo predecessors? OSes built by committee -- especially the hobbyist open source variety -- are designed only for the committee members themselves. Just ask desktop Linux users.

In mid-2013, it's all but certain that mobile have become like the PC market in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s: dominated by two platforms (Windows and Mac OS, then OS X), while hobbyist deployments such as Linux and, more recently, Chrome OS scraped by in the margins. Unless something dramatically major happens in the meantime, it'll be Android and iOS dominating, with perhaps Windows Phone scraping by in the margins. That's fine -- iOS is a great platform, and Android is a good one.

This article, "Boring iOS 6, Android 'Jelly Bean' will rule in 2013," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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