Back in 1983, when Apple launched its Lisa with a Graphical User Interface(GUI), Microsoft was a long way from first Windows operating system. Yet in 10 years, Microsoft’s Windows became the most used GUI and eventually a distinct market leader in Desktop Operating System category.
When smartphones started becoming popular, Apple led the way with the iPhone and its iOS. Yet within years, Google’s Android took over the mobile operating system market. As the first mover, iPhone definitely enjoyed unprecedented success. But as the current trend is telling us, the market has shifted towards Android and will continue to do so. On the other hand, Microsoft, the Desktop OS leader, couldn’t make a sizable dent in the Smart Phone OS market with their Windows Mobile.
In tomorrow’s world, desktop or smartphones might no longer be the most sought after devices. Some new device might become the most used one and if (when) that happens, companies will once again have to fight for share in a new operating system market. The next world changing device might be something with Virtual Reality (VR), or Holographic Images or something entirely new. What’s essential for that device to become mainstream is a complimenting operating system . For example, we already have VR headsets but they don’t have any dedicated OS. As a result, VR is getting positioned as a device for fun and gimmicks. It will stay that way until it becomes an independent device with a fully functioning OS.
The device that will rule tomorrow’s market will need an OS specifically developed for it. And luckily for the developers, there is a guideline they can follow; taken directly from the successes of Windows and Android.
1. Make it Accessible to All:
– Microsoft launched its Windows in US market after Apple did its iOS. Yet, Microsoft conquered the entire market with ease. Because while iOS was limited to using only on Apple devices, Windows was open for all!
– Similarly, Google allowed the use of Android in all types of smartphones. In Bangladesh, Symphony ( a local company) is the market leader in smart phone market, with close competition from Walton ( local), Samsung and some other Chinese brands. All of these devices run on Android OS. Similarly in India, Micromax is the market leader. In China, companies are launching brands like Xiaomi and One Plus which have managed a strong fan following in almost no time. All of these business became possible because they didn’t have to worry much about an operating system. And by relieving the manufacturers of that headache, Google has ensured that it remains the leader in Global and (most of the) individual markets.
-When multiple companies use the same OS, it automatically leads to more people using that OS. As a result, more developers become interested in developing apps for that platform.
o Total number of apps on the App Store – 1,5 million (as of the summer of 2015)
o Total number of apps on Google Play – 1,8 million (as of the winter of 2015)
(Source : businessofapps.com )
2. Let other’s promote your Operating System:
When Samsung promotes their Note 7 or Huawei promotes their P9, Android gets two different promotional campaigns. Apple/ Windows might spend more money individually, but when we combine all the advertising dollars spent behind promoting android phones (LG G series, Huawei, HP, etc.), Android wins by a large margin. Similarly, when Lenovo, HP, Asus and others promote their computers, Microsoft gets a huge boost.
3. Penetrate Market First, Business will Follow:
As discussed earlier, it’s essential to enter the market and capture as many people as possible first. iOS is popular because a huge number of people bought iPhones. Windows isn’t because not many bought Nokia or Microsoft phones. But Android is the market leader because it focused more on penetrating the market than generating business initially. In the very initial stage in the OS market, it’s a race for the companies. But it eventually becomes a battle which is advanced by the consumers. The bandwagon effect is strong in this market.
4. Customize for the New Device:
– What works on desktop computers, doesn’t in smart phones. Similarly, what works on smart phones, doesn’t work well in smart watches. All these devices need an OS specifically designed for them. The next big device will also need a completely fresh OS. The problem with established companies is, they don’t want to go too far from their existing successful offering. Windows had very similar Smartphone and Desktop OS initially. Android’s Tab and Smartphone OS is same, as a result they are not doing well in larger screen devices. Apple, on the other hand, completely changed their iOS for handheld devices. As a result, though they have close to 18% share in Mobile OS, their share becomes close to 28% when you factor Tablets in.
– Word of Caution: If you don’t customize for the new device, someone else will. The desktop OS was developed by Microsoft, a new player who became a giant eventually. Google developed Android without much prior success in Desktop OS. Same thing can happen with the next device’s OS.
5. Be slightly late if needed, but be better:
For a new technology to be commercially successful, a huge number of people have to adopt that. Most of the people who adopt a new technology usually do that after that technology has been around for a while. This practice gives the developers a bit of extra time. So even if the first version of the OS isn’t satisfactory, developers can quickly take people’s opinion and make new changes. In that way, the operating system will have a good chance at being successful.
– Word of Caution: Being too late has to be avoided at all costs. Windows Mobile was too late.
Desktop Computer reigned after Windows 95. Laptop came to the picture and became popular during 2000s. Smartphones have been around for a decade. History tells us that this market is going to change eventually. Something new will come soon, and that will dictate whether the current giants will remain giants or someone else will take their place.