Don’t Tell Aspirants that the Race for a Third Mobile OS Is Over

Carl Weinschenk

On Monday, I wrote a post that looked at research from three sources suggesting that the window for a third mobile operating system (OS) is diminishing. In the big picture, the research indicates that Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are dominate now and are likely to increase their cumulative share over time.

That may be so, but at the same time the landscape is fluid enough that it is premature to say that a full duopoly is a done deal. Indeed, there are a number of high- and low-profile aspirants to the number three mobile OS. Tomi Ahonen, a contributor to Bright Side of News, suggests that those who think it is too late to get into the smartphone game are mistaken:

This IS the right time to get in, if you ever wanted to be a major player in smartphones, whether on the hardware or the software and operating system size. During 2013 will we be somewhere near 1 Billion smartphone sales. After that, it will become increasingly hard to break into the market, and probably by 2015 it will be too late.

Though Ahonen mentions hardware, he clearly is focused on the software side. Indeed, the bulk of his post is a very nice roundup of the most likely suspects: Ubuntu, Sailfish, Tizen, BlackBerry 10, Windows Phone and Google. Clearly, the presence of six candidates suggests that many people and companies well versed in the mobile OS scene certainly don’t think the game is over.

A major step has been taken by one of the lesser-known nascent OSes. At The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Tizen 2.0’s source code and software developers’ kit (SDK) will be released. Ahonen provides good background on the open source mobile OS.

The Register has the low-down on version 2.0. The story begins by saying that Tizen, which was launched by the Linux Foundation, got a big boost in January when Samsung said it would use it. Version 2.0 – Magnolia – will offer Bluetooth, near-field communications, calendars, call history and messaging system access, according to Phil Muncaster. He adds that Magnolia will support background apps, IP push and text-to-speech, scaling to various screen sizes and HTML5.

As often is the case, there are things going on below the surface. For instance, earlier this year a person identified in this article on Unwired View only as “the president of Japanese carrier KDDI” (he is Takashi Tanaka, but it can’t be definitively said the comment was his) indicated at an HTML5 event (again, the show is not named) that the Firefox OS may be deployed in Japan this year. This week, Canonical, which is developing Ubuntu, released a version for Linux. Late last month, CNET Asia posted a blog on efforts by Jolla – which is developing Sailfish – to compete with Android in China.

It still is unclear what the size of the pie is for the third OS. It seems clear that iOS and Android will dominate, of course. But it also is logical to assume that the third player will be very influential in driving competition between the top two. This will lead to faster and deeper innovation and better pricing.



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