Four Lower-Profile Mobile OSes Emerge from the Shadows

Carl Weinschenk
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The news on mobile operating systems is dominated by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. That’s been punctuated by a bit of talk about BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone. Along the way, there has been a bit less chatter – mere whispers, really – about four other wannabes: Sailfish, Ubuntu, Tizen and the Firefox OS. Some background can be found in a two-part virtual roundtable IT Business Edge posted on March 26 and April 3.

The low profile of the four operating systems is about to get at least a little bit higher. The biggest piece of news from the quartet was the announcement a while ago that Samsung was going to use Tizen on a phone.

Now the other three OSes are getting into the act.

ZDNet and other sites reported last week that The Ubuntu Touch, based on Raring – which the story says is the 13.04 codebase – is available for testing. Different “images” of the operating system are available for Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 10 and Nexus 7.

The second mobile OS to make news last week is Sailfish, which is being created by Jolla, a company that includes former Nokia employees. TechCrunch reported that it will display its first handset and conduct a “pre-sales” campaign in May. TechCrunch, citing the Finnish publication digitoday, said that the campaign with be a Kickstarter-style crowd funding initiative.

The second of the minor mobile OSes to announce a move last week is Firefox. At the D:Drive Into Mobile conference sponsored by All Things D, Firefox CEO Gary Kovacs said, according to the sponsoring site, that a “first-wave rollout” will begin soon. When pressed, the story reported, he said that the Firefox OS will launch in Venezuela, Poland, Brazil, Portugal and Spain in June. He added that the OS will be launched in 11 other countries by the end of the year and the United States in 2014.

Meanwhile, Engadget reported last week that Keon, a mobile Firefox OS-based white label handset from Spanish online retailer Geeksphone, has gotten the okay from the Federal Communications Commission and is (or soon will be, the story is a bit ambiguous on timing) available for test use on AT&T’s network. The story outlines the devices’ specs.

There is a tremendous amount of money and power for the operating system that plays the Curly to Android and iOS’ Moe and Larry. Expect that battle – which seems on the verge of getting started in earnest -- to be intense.

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