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Is there an echo in here?

10/4/09

One of the biggest mistakes I made was dating an ex-boyfriends twin brother. The older, by five minutes, had dumped me and the younger had always had that “look but don’t touch” attitude to me.  Perhaps I seized the initiative from revenge, perhaps from denial or insecurity.

What I learnt was that history is a great source of what is going to happen and brother the younger dumped me too. Twice the pain, twice the humiliation.

Ever since then I’ve looked back to look forward which is why I was amazed at the Verizon announcement that there are too many operating systems and that they are going to rationalize down to about three. Is there an echo in here? Isn’t that precisely what Arun Sarin said at Barcelona in 2006? Vodafone laid down a mandate of Windows Mobile, Linux or Series 60. And then along came Apple, Pre and Google and Vodafone realized that unless they were so liberal with the definition of Linux it became meaningless the whole idea was unworkable.

So Vodafone learnt that if they wanted new innovative products they would have to stop dictating and start embracing differentiation. In a fantastic volte face they went from telling to asking and launched Betavine, a developer’s playground where new ideas could be kicked around.

Over in the blue corner O2 did something similar with Litmus. This is peer to peer, developer to developer, and developer to geek, testing. Anyone can sign up to Litmus, upload their application and in short order it will be available for other Litmus subscribers to download. O2 give it a cursory check to make sure it’s not a virus or dodgy content but they don’t go as far as to make sure it works properly or conforms to O2 corporate guidelines. From then on it is available to the Litmus community. There is a charging mechanism, so the developer can make money straightaway, and peer review. Those that pass the acid test and get the best feedback are investigated by O2 with a view to giving it a wider audience on the O2 and Telefonica main sites. That’s over 240 million subscribers. At this stage there are full commercial discussions and the application will need looking at properly with languages and lawyers and stuff but having been through Litmus it will find favour.

This process of allowing the community to choose suitors for O2 rather than the network choosing for itself has overtones of an arranged marriage. Traditionally in the west we think that this is A Bad Thing but for an eye-opening account of how you can be British, Muslim and a supporter of arranged marriages I’d recommend Love In A Headscarf. I don’t know, but I guess that 90% of the readers of this column are male and unlikely to read chick-lit, let alone Muslim chick-lit, but just as I found out with the twins, taking the path you think is right often isn’t.
I give it eighteen months before Verizon gives up on its attempt to dictate on operating systems and takes the devices the consumers want to buy. Maybe even less time if they decide that Symbian is one of the operating systems that doesn’t make the cut. The only logic for not taking Symbian is the five-year-old-with-crayons logo the Foundation has adopted.

Cat Keynes publishes her thoughts on the mobile phone industry every Sunday at www.catkeynes.com you can read the column  the previous Friday by subscribing here.
Follow me on Twitter here.

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