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Fragmentation of the Mobile UI

After watching this impressive video demo of HTC Sense UI for Android, it got me start thinking about the fragmentation of the Mobile UI.

Due to the open source nature of Android, heavy customization of the UI is to be expect. This type of heavy customization of mobile UNIX/Linux UI reminds me of the crazy varieties of the UNIX interface of the 1990s. Anyone still remember the different versions Motif, Gnome, KDE, Solaris, etc?

I am afraid we’re entering a very similar era with the Mobile UI.

“Classic Android” (Google Phone), HTC Sense UI for Android, Palm Pre’s WebOS, Symbian S60 Touch, etc. the choice are limitless. These ‘next gen’ UI are powerful, but yet difficult to use. They also require the users to relearn how things operate from handsets to handsets.

Imagine developer has to port popular mobile service to at least 5 different handsets’ OS. Imagine users switch between handsets and they have to relearn their favorite apps (i.e. Twitter client or Web browser).

I am aware of the great hope of HTML / JavaScript driven mobile-web apps (or even OS) that will “rule them all”. These solutions are (technically) sound for both the users and developer, but in reality, if you want to deliver top notch user experience, some middle of the road solution rarely works…

The PC Revolutions happened because we actually have limited choices. Macs or Windows (95 in particular). The next 3-5 years are critical for these Mobile OS. For mobile to succeed, natural selection has to occur. We’ll end up with no more than 3 different major mobile OS. Mark my words.

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Designer. Xooglers. Photography, iPhone, and Outdoor / EDC Tactical Gears enthusiast.