One criticism of the mobile industry that has been raised repeatedly in recent years has been that there is a lack of competition that exists in certain areas of the market. In the UK in particular the vast majority of new handsets sold come from two manufacturers, while globally in software there only exist two operating systems that have significant user numbers.
For those in a position of power, the earnings from a dominant product are huge. A lawyer for the database manufacturer Oracle recently claimed that Google’s Android operating system makes the internet search engine $22bn in profit.
Much of this has to do with the fact that there is so little choice for handset manufacturers looking to reach a sizable audience. Android’s main rival, iOS, is a closed shop, and beyond that, despite some initial interest, Microsoft’s Windows platform has failed to establish itself as a viable alternative.
Clearly regulators find it difficult regulating the software space. The lack of choice in terms of operating system is a problem that has persisted from the desktop days when Windows reigned supreme to the mobile era where Google has a sizable advantage.
Creating a competitive environment where new platforms can emerge remains problematic. There are examples of new OS’s emerging from Google’s open-source policy, with the likes of Cyanogen offering interesting iterations of the Android system. But for now these types of products remain niche.
In the manufacturer space, understanding the stranglehold that a few well-known brands have on the UK market is complex. Many times experts have struggled to understand why specifications are behind brand when it comes to mobile handsets, but that’s the nature of the UK market at present.
There are times when it feels this market dominance cannot last, and in both cases change is around the corner. For some in the industry this change can’t come soon enough.