These days, the average user treats a browser as an OS.
Open your browser and do stuff: write documents, read/write email, watch movies,..
That surely makes it easy for providing development tools: just use website dev tools.
Google is pretty much trying the same thing with ChromeOS.
@Junko: Asian markets are even more challenging and the “entry-level smartphones” are good products where people don't need all of the 'smarts' of a smart phone. SMS is still very much used in India or China as opposed to data plans.
" the definition of smartphones vs. feature phones, in my opinion, is fundamentally phony", you nailed the weakest point about this whole drame, Junko. Even if a smartphone has all the necessary features that a smartphone should have but only for a namesake then should we consider it as smartphone? Also, with time the definition changes as the technology matures or improves.
Good point. In the end, if operators can't generate the kind of profit they want from feature phones, there won't be a place for them. This ship may have already sailed in the U.S. and others places, but I would think that in developing countries the opportunity is still there.
Leaving in question what's the engine inside it (gecko /JS or HTML5 alone with an embedded OS) I guess th problem is the platform, this chips are bare bones µ-JVM, so you have a lot of restrictions, but if they could put HTML5 in there featured cores are firing up another war! Possibly against entry-level smartphones
That's fortunately a US-specific issue (or not depending on where you live!) The problem is that the handset market in US is heavily operator controlled. The lack of swappable SIM cards (for CDMA operators) and devices which have the capability to access all networks lock in consumers to their operator and severely limit their options. In Europe, regulations enforced the GSM standard, mobile number portability and the standardised spectrum allocations meant that phones work across all operators and so there is a blossoming prepay and unlocked handset market.
We can see this problem rearing its head again in the US with Verizon and AT&T's refusal to make their 4G devices interoperable with other 700MHz networks.
The problem is that revenue from calling and SMS is falling across the board, so operators are pushing smartphones with data plans as a way to boost their revenue. In fact, if you had a smartphone without a data plan and took to using an IM service over Wi-Fi to replace your SMS use, then the operator would actually lose revenue from your switch to a smartphone. That's why many operators require you take a data plan with a smartphone!
I tihnk the conversation threads above show a very astute observation. As Frank Eory pointed out earlier (as well as so many others above), the distinction between feature phones and "entry-level" smartphones actually boils down to the different business models (by which, I mean, that of operators), instead of hardware/software in handsets (which I wrongly thought it was).
Obviously, many of us living in the U.S. are tired of paying too much for data plans.
It's almost ironic that technology is no longer a key factor enabling cellphone communication accessible to many people in the world. It is the operators' business plan!