Dean Bubley’s latest post on Operator-specific vs. Vanilla handsets describes how Dean has spotted Carphone Warehouse selling vanilla rather than operator branded handsets.
An anonymous comment from a CPW employee says this is…
"because it is easier to carry and not sell out of a generic handset also that economies of scale are realised fully when we place massive direct orders with the manufacturers"
This made me wonder if this is likely to be a trend and what the implications would be for applications developers. In fact, if (sorry when) Android devices ship and if (not necessarily when!) the concept of a generic Android OS phone is successful in the mass market then there may be less operator branding happening.
From an operator perspective there may be less of a market for developer applications and services to be sold to network operators. Alternatively, this could be viewed as the network operator having to improve application/service discovery so that applications that are not already on the phone can be found and downloaded.
From a developer perspective, operator phone OS variants are trouble. For example, many people are now locked into old S60 firmware variants because there isn’t an available operator branded version available via the Nokia upgrade service. As we all know, early firmware has lot of bugs. This often stops third party application services from working correctly. Yes, there’s an unofficial hack to change the phone so that it thinks it has a generic OS version that can be upgraded – but the complexity of this is beyond the ability of the average user.