A Tale of Four Up-and-Coming Mobile OSes

Carl Weinschenk
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Mobile Development Trends for 2014

New mobile devices come fast and furious every time the industry meets in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. This year is no exception. Clearly, it takes a person with a high capacity for detail to categorize and discuss all the new items.

But, instead, I want to focus on the four mobile operating systems that are struggling to gain a bit of traction and, if possible, enter the fray alongside the first tier (Android and iOS) and the second (BlackBerry and Windows Phone). All four were in the news before and during MWC.

Tizen, according to Ubergizmo, is still in a waiting game. Earlier delays pointed to a potential launch by Samsung at MWC, but it is not happening. The bottom line is that it is uncertain if Samsung, which is long thought to be the most likely manufacturer to premier the OS, will actually be the first out of the gate. The sense is that things are going slowly for Tizen.

The story seems marginally better for Canonical, which is trying to gain a toehold with Ubuntu Mobile. Digital Trends reports that the company is partnering with hardware makers Meizu and bq on the project.

The two are not household names, so allow me to do an introduction. Meizu, a Chinese company, is the better known of the two after having debuted its cool MX3 smartphone at MWC 2013. It has stated its intention of using Ubuntu in efforts to enter the U.S. Formerly known as booq, bq is the second biggest seller of SIM-free devices in Spain.

The Sailfish OS also was in the news. Last week, parent company Jolla said that release 1.0 of the software is just about ready. Jolla also said that “the Sailfish OS experience” can be downloaded into Android devices and that Jolla phones were distributed in Finland last November. Three software upgrades have been made since then, with a fourth due in early March. At that point, the release says, the software will be set for distribution globally.

Last but not least is Mozilla and its Firefox OS. ZDNet reports that the company used the MWC to announce that it has signed a deal with Spreadtrum, a fabless semiconductor company based in Shanghai, to develop a reference design for a phone that would cost only $25. The story later says that Spreadtrum said that it has WCDMA and EDGE reference designs that fit the bill. Mozilla says that carriers such as Telenor, Telkomsel and Indosat have expressed interest in the low-cost device.

All in all, things seem to be a bit sour at this level of the mobile operating system game. Down is not out, however, and it is entirely possible that one or more of these wannabes will create a niche for itself. This is particularly true because the proliferating uses of mobile OSes give them a variety of targets at which to aim.

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