Posted by: Olga Kharif on December 1, 2008
iPhone hackers have just managed to replace Apple’s own operating system that comes with the device with Linux software. That could be the beginning of a seismic shift for smartphone software. It opens the door for open-source operating systems to jump onto devices not built specifically for them.
Until now, few people have bothered to replace operating systems running on their smartphones, the way they already replace their Windows with Linux on PCs. Mobile operating system vendors like Microsoft grew their market shares by striking deals with handset makers and carriers to integrate their software into the carriers’ line-ups.
Perhaps that could change. The hack could potentially open the way for people to install rival operating systems, such as Google’s Android, onto the iPhone and other devices. Android can already run on Windows Mobile devices, thanks to a similar hack.
These hacks are opening the door for Android and other open-source operating systems to jump onto devices that aren’t specifically made for them. Companies like Apple and Microsoft should find this development troubling. Deals with handset makers and carriers will no longer deter those users who are determined to use Android or another flavor of Linux on any device they buy. Granted, not that many consumers are tech savvy enough to change their smartphone OS; still, that small percentage could contribute to a market share drain that some OS makers may experience if the hacks catch on.