France Telecom-Orange CEO Stephane Richard has invited the heads of Vodafone, Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile) to Paris on 8 October to discuss the development of a common operating system for mobile devices. He told Le Figaro that mobile operating systems were the Trojan horse used by Google and Apple to establish relationships with mobile customers. The four operators have nearly 1 billion customers combined and the capacity to influce industry. The initiative could take several forms including a joint venture or a common apps development unit. He added that the operators aim to retake the reigns of innovation, rather than be followers.
In the interview Richard also stated that carriers have decided not to advertise the iPhone any more.
This attempt at operator cooperation in software has been tried before, but it predictably failed (does anyone remember Savaje?) Symbian itself was an attempt at mobile phone vendor cooperation on systems software. There are various consortiums for “open mobile OS” based on Linux (e.g. LiMO which started as a Japanese effort). Even the Open Software Alliance is a rubber stamp body rather than an attempt at development.
Although one can safely dismiss the potential of this effort on the basis of a lack of competence, the arrogance reminds one of the rigidity in response to the disruption under way. The fact that high-speed data networks allow operator disintermediation cannot be changed by “innovation” on systems software.
But the odd thing is why even bother. The solution to taking control over the user experience and services platform is straight-forward: each operator could fork a version of Android as their own and hire a team to integrate white label services. It’s much more straight-forward than coordinating a joint effort. China Mobile have already done their own non-Google Android.