Why the OS Is Hot at CTIA — and What It Means

The annual CTIA Wireless conference officially kicked off in Las Vegas today, and so far, company announcements are being dominated by those related to the mobile operating system. Among the headlines so far:

  • Mozilla has ceased development of a mobile version of its Firefox browser for Microsoft’s (s msft) Windows Mobile. Mozilla’s decision follows similar moves by Skype and Adobe (s adbe), both of which opted to abandon the lame duck platform last month. For both developers and consumers, the message is clear: Windows Mobile is suddenly an obsolete mobile operating system. Invest your resources elsewhere.
  • Qualcomm (s qcom) said it will package Opera Software’s (s opera) Mini and Mobile browsers with its Brew OS. A platform for feature phones and a few low-end smartphones, Brew is often overlooked amid all the buzz surrounding smartphone platforms like Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone and Google’s (s goog) Android. Qualcomm has begun touting Brew as a kind of mass-market alternative to more advanced operating systems, and AT&T (s t) recently committed to using Brew for all non-smartphones. (Verizon Wireless (s vz) has long used the Brew platform.) The message: Brew, it’s not dead yet!
  • Opera also submitted its popular Mini browser to Apple for inclusion in the App Store. Opera said it believes the browser will be approved by Apple because Mini will be up to six times faster than the Safari browser, but many onlookers believe Apple will spike Mini because it violates Apple’s policy for apps that “duplicate existing functionality” of the iPhone’s built-in software. Regardless, the move sets up an interesting showdown between mobile’s most iconic device and its most popular third-party browser.

These moves highlight the increasing importance operating systems play in today’s mobile industry, and help illuminate the strategies being employed by some high-profile developers. Opera’s move to support Brew underscores the platform’s massive footprint in the U.S., for instance — a fact often is lost in the hype surrounding more powerful operating systems. And Mozilla’s decision to abandon WinMo puts one more nail in the coffin of a platform that Microsoft has left to rot. Look for more of these types of announcements as the show plays out this week.

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Image courtesy Flickr user connectologist.