It’s Android or Apple: who needs other handset vendors?

The runaway success of Apple’s iPhone and of Google’s Android OS tells a story that handset vendors don’t really want to hear.

The operating system is king when you’re buying a smartphone, and people don’t give a hoot about whether the handset is made by Nokia, Samsung, HTC, Sony, or by Microsoft itself.

The sea change is underlined by the dash by the big handset companies to ship phones that use the Android operating system, and also by the hubbub over Google’s Nexus One.  The fact HTC is making the device doesn’t seem to matter a hoot.

Microsoft attempted to shift the focus for phones with its introduction of Windows Mobile all those years ago – but it underestimated the market and despite spending hundreds of millions pushing the idea, it’s ended up a loser in the battle.

The Symbian initiative also failed to capture the eyes and pockets of buyers – mainly because buyers were interested in features and applications, and Symbian was too abstruse to make any difference at all.

But now the game has changed and the apps business and the Apple business continues to pick up traction.

If your phone ain’t an Apple and it ain’t got Android, then it’s curtains for manufacturers like Nokia insisting on brand.