AT&T plans to run a single mobile OS on all of its branded smartphones, citing the "support nightmare" of maintaining multiple platforms at once. Curiously, this announcement was made at a Symbian conference. Updated 19:26 EST.
It's not entirely clear what AT&T means by this announcement, but one question was addressed right off the bat: the iPhone, which the company described as "a third-party device" that generally isn't supported or interfered with by the company, is immune. Such a consolidation would push all but one of Microsoft, RIM, Nokia or even Google out of AT&T's stable, which might be construed as brash.
Even more bizarre are the implicit expectations for phone manufacturers. Would RIM, assuming their phones aren't deemed "third party products", be expected to adopt a new OS? Will Nokia phones be excluded from AT&T's lineup unless they run Windows Mobile? Simultaneously stating that the plan would only include AT&T branded smartphones (of which there are few) and that it would be a "dramatic restructuring", the company has left the scope of this initiative a mystery.
As for which OS would be chosen, the location of the announcement and mentions of a preference for an "open" platform are all we have to go on. I could imagine these statements raising a few eyebrows around the industry, so don't be surprised to see some kind of clarification issued in the next few days. [Yahoo]
UPDATE: Although it is possible some quotes in the original story came from a post-speech interview with AT&T's Roger Smith, commenter Sinecure saw the presentation and took awy a completely different message:
I sat through the entirety of Roger Smith's presentation at the Symbian show yesterday and I did NOT come away with that impression one single bit. Methinks some Yahoo reporter just got a little over-excited for an interesting headline. I'm calling major BS and misinterpretation on this one.
Frankly it makes me even more suspect of some of the reporting on technical subjects out there.
Bottom line: I heard this supposed "announcement" first hand and I did not hear him say anything approaching what the reporter is saying.
UPDATE II: And now for that clarification I was talking about. AT&T's statement on the matter:
We have no plans to standardize on one platform for our smart devices.
We want to give our wireless customers maximum choice – in innovative devices, applications, operating systems, and more. One way to maximize customer choice is to begin to reduce fragmentation in the wireless OS environment. That is why we are a member of the Symbian Foundation.
That fragmentation puts a heavy burden on wireless carriers, handset makers, and especially apps developers, who have to create for multiple operating systems and sometimes for multiple versions of the same operating system.