Who cares what operating system a phone uses? Well obviously the suppliers of the operating system care with the blinkered rose-tinted vision of any parent, writes Rob Bamforth of Bloor Research.
The manufacturers of the phone may care a little, although most seem fairly agnostic. Open application platforms such as SMS, MMS and Java reduce the cost of caring for content developers. Operators may not have realised there was an operating system there, and anyway why should they care? So that leaves the user.
Of course users don't care - unless they are early adopters.
A recent article in the Sunday Times indicated that the drive for features above usability is a predominantly male thing. Women, according to the article want technology to 'just work', whereas men want the latest gadgets with as many cool features as possible.
I'd like to take some exception to this generalisation. Men can show their feminine side of technology appreciation too. It depends on where the technology is with relation to the maturity of the market. Male tendencies are more prominent at the early adopter stage - hence the interest in the latest bells and whistles in any gadget. As the market matures, and the gadgets become daily tools, even men appreciate utility over feature overload.
But early adopter versus conservative majority or male versus female are too simplistic a way to subdivide your prospective customers. Two recent smartphone announcements highlight two different approaches.
On the one hand, the Symbian OS based F2102V phone from Fujitsu has twin videophone cameras and auxiliary lights, authentication and 300+ hours battery life on standby. On the other, the Xplore G18 from Hong Kong listed Group Sense International has digital camera, full personal digital assistant (PDA) capabilities and web browser, but only 100 hours on standby.
They are similar weights and sizes, but clearly offer different capabilities to the user. They are also aimed at different markets, with the F2102V being launched for NTT DoCoMo's 3G service into a technology crowded Japan, and Group Sense looking at the opportunities for PDA phones in a relatively low tech China.
So is one 'better' than the other? No. If the markets are well chosen, the needs of users in those markets correctly identified, and the applications work well enough to meet those needs, they should both be successful. 'Better' is frequently a term used by enthusiastic early adopters and manufacturers of technology to mean more features.
The issue of one operating system versus another attracts unnecessary attention in the high tech computer world, but neither of these phone manufacturers mentions that particular detail in their product information. That came only from the press releases of the operating system suppliers.
However PalmSource and Symbian should take comfort from this. The best technologies are those that are invisible or impose no additional complexity on the user. Ask any Mac user...or woman.