10-year Mobile OS CycleThe smartphone market thrives on evolving technologies: bigger screens, faster processors, better battery life. If it’s out there, consumers want it, plain and simple. Without a solid OS, though, smartphones wouldn’t be where they are today. That’s why a new industry observation is a bit worrying for iOS and Android fans. In a note to investors, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Sue suggests that the two OSes have only a ten-year life span, meaning they’ll be on the decline very soon.

Apple’s iOS is nearing its fifth birthday, while Android is turning four at the end of this year. By Sue’s logic, the two will soon hit a decline because “history shows that operating systems peak in the middle of a 10-year cycle.” That may be true with older OSes, but the stakes have never been higher, and iOS and Android are only getting better. Still, Sue says that “sustainability beyond five years remains to be seen.”

Strategy Analytics, who collaborated with Sue in conceptualizing the 10-year cycle, points to Calyton M. Christensen’s book The Innovator’s Dilemma. The book explains that popular companies run the risk of losing market leadership – or even disappearing completely – if they don’t innovate and withstand market disruption. See: Research In Motion.

“No single platform has consistently dominated for eternity,” said Alex Spektor, a Strategy Analytics Associate Director, in an interview. “Something better and newer comes along and pushes it out of leadership position. The question for the next five years of the smartphone industry is whether Apple and Android can maintain their peak market share or whether new platforms will muscle in.”

Considering how gigantic iOS and Android have become, it’s hard to imagine a new platform muscling in. BlackBerry 10? We’re still a year off from seeing whether or not that will become viable competition.

Sure, iOS and Android have been around for awhile, but the two OSes have huge ecosystems backing them up, something previous OSes didn’t have. Apple has an uncanny ability to reinvent itself, while Android is a flexible OS that allows manufacturers and users to customize it to their liking. As Forbes points out, previous operating systems failed because of bad management, poor funding and stagnation, characteristics neither iOS or Android has shown.

If anyone can put the ten year curse in the rearview, it’s Apple and Google. The halfway point for each respective OS is just around the corner, though, so we’ll see if they begin to lose their luster and fall off to something newer and better. If something better does come along, I can’t wait to see it.