Hardware Agnostic Smartphones?

NOTE:  This blog post is based on a conversation we had about the future of smartphones on Real Tech for Real People, in episode 56 “The LT Episode”.  Give it a listen, and let us know what you think.

Since the start of the smartphone experience, the hardware and the operating system have been so tightly integrated that one is hard to distinguish from the other.  This started as far back as the Springboard Sprint phone hardware attachment for the Handspring Visor, and continues today with the Windows 7 phones, the iPhone and in reality the Android phone.  But what if the phones (hardware) and the soul of the phones, the mobile OS’s, could be separated?

As the Windows 7 phone rolls out we are once again introduced to a wide array of mobile phone models, names, and interfaces.  We have been seeing that with the Android, with several different Galaxy S phone from Samsung, as well as a variety of “Droid” branded Motorola phones with Verizon.  And of course, as mentioned in the NY Times recently, if you want to get the iOS on a phone, you have to get an iPhone.

But imagine a different world: Imagine a world where the hardware becomes separate from the OS.  Imagine if you could go into a cellphone store, and decide on the hardware you wanted, and then purchase (or just install in the case of the Android) an operating system?  It would seem we aren’t all that far away from this reality.  The processors in the Windows Phone 7 are the same as many of the Android phones.  The memory, displays, and cameras are all essentially commodities these days.  The only real difference is the cellular radios that are included in the phones, and that is network dependent, not OS dependent–three “flavors” for each OS and you are done.

Does this open up a whole new world, or just add to more confusion?

Would YOU want to be able to mix and match the OS with the hardware that you prefer?

Let me know your thoughts.