Whoever would have believed that the year 2010 would involve a critical battle between operating systems? After all the years of crowing about how the web had made the OS obsolete we now find that they’re more important than ever. Perhaps even more important than the web itself? If I were a hack writer for a hack magazine, I’d have to ask the question: Is the operating system back from the dead?
But that’d be dumb. In reality it is the web that is driving virtually all of the innovation and growth in the smartphone market. Without the web both the iPhone and the latest Android “superphone” are nothing more than overly expensive, shiny bricks. The same holds true for netbooks and many ultraportables whose utility is, again, significantly reduced without the web. Mobile isn’t some sort of alternative to the web rather it’s just the opposite: mobile’s value is wholly dependent upon being another point of access for the web. Steve Jobs’ real innovation was simply understanding how valuable such mobile access to the web really is — and in fact this is something Palm users and the few hardcore WinCE users had understood for years.
So as “interesting” as it is to discuss the merits of the mobile operating system race it’s ultimately really of little consequence who wins. No matter who wins the end result will be same: thousands of people carrying powerful devices that have deep integration with the web everywhere they go. This is the real “magic” of mobile and it’s what developers ought to be thinking about as they charge into the “app goldrush.”