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Why Microsoft is Acorn and Symbian is the new CP/M

Today's phones are just like '80s computers

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And what happened?

Unfortunately by next year MSX was indeed out of date, and despite selling several million units it never became the standard the owners intended.

One can even extend this analogy to encompass Java, or J2ME as the phone-version is known. Java, rather unfortunately, compares well to the BASIC language of the 1980's, in that every computer ran a variation of it, but you couldn't expect an application developed on one to work properly on another without considerable effort. J2ME is still a useful language, but fragmentation of implementations continue to hold it back.

Take this analogy and run forward twenty years or so, and we find that Windows Phone 7, Symbian and Bada are memories brought up in the pub for the sake of geek nostalgia - or worse, relegated to powering something like the Amstrad PCW, where CP/M found a home for a while. In 2030, if our analogy is accurate, the majority of people are using Android, while a small, but vocal, minority continue to insist that Apple makes the best of everything.

One thing we have failed to do is find a place for the Blackberry, though if we keep our horizons within the UK then it's tempting to compare RIM to ICL. ICL certainly dominated government departments, but the comparison isn't really satisfactory, so we welcome suggestions for the 1980's player who most resembles RIM, and anyone else we missed off.

Our analogy isn't complete, or entirely accurate. It's obviously wrong to compare the mighty Google with the fledging Microsoft, though taking IBM's involvement in the promotion of MS-DOS into consideration perhaps that's not too far from the mark.

The point is that the number of desktop operating systems expanded hugely, and then contracted as the majority of people wanted decided to either be different, or run the same software as everyone else.

That left space for two significant players - and all the evidence now points to the mobile industry following a similar course. Only smaller. ®

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