Techilicious columnist Rajiv Makhni
Are you bored of the fact that almost every phone released and every buying choice is restricted to either Android or iOS? Are you excited about the news that is flooding in about brand new mobile phone operating systems that will take on these two and bring in a breath of fresh air into the fairly mundane smartphone market? Well, control that growing ebullience for a while and let’s first get our facts right.
More than 90 per cent of smartphones around the world run on Android and iOS.
Android has about 75 per cent of the market share and sells about 60 million smartphones every month.
Apple’s iOS has about 18 per cent of the market share and sells about 13 million smartphones every month.
As you can see from these numbers, the dominance of the top two is formidable and for a new OS to take on the mighty twins isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Here’s a quick report card on the new OSes on the horizon and the chances each have to pull off a bit of a coup.
What: A towering beast born of incestuous relationships and strange bedfellows. A full-blown operating system that is the bastard child of MeeGo (the abandoned Nokia-Intel OS), LiMo, Bada and a few other alphabet soup OSes.
Arsenal: Has some serious backing now with Samsung announcing a few phones and the Linux association along with a few more brands making a lot of noise. It will run on multiple device categories including tablets and in-car entertainment systems. It will run any app that is HTML5 compliant. It has Intel backing it and it has service providers understandably excited.
Chinks: It’s been brewing for way too long and doesn’t have much to show for it. It has predominantly Samsung backing it and that is a big issue.
Chances to pull off a coup: It brings up the classic question - would you kill the goose that lays the golden egg? Would Samsung really go the whole hog and truly cannibalise its Android phone cash-generating machine? And Samsung’s track record on any OS other than Android has always been pretty shaky (think Bada, Windows).
What: The giant slayer and the one generating the most excitement. Ubuntu is an excellent Linux-based desktop operating system and has a serious user base and fan following. Think of the Touch as a desktop OS ported to a mobile phone.
Arsenal: Clean interface. It has Edge Magic, which is a button-less gesture and swipe-based way of doing everything on your phone. It will have lots of apps right from the start, is HTML5-ready so almost any website can work like an app. It will work on tablets, desktops and phones seamlessly.
Chinks: No major backing from the big hardware giants. It had to crowdsource $32 million. The first device – the Ubuntu Edge (nice looking, dual-boots Android) seems expensive ($600 - $830).
Chances to pull off a coup: Slim to none. It will need to get at least two big mobile brands to announce a Ubuntu Touch phone. It must start with a under-$200 phone to gain some momentum.
What: Robin Hood-like saviour of the poor. It is the all-new economy smartphone king. Basically a web browser that runs like a mobile phone OS. It is the smartphone OS for the rest of us.
Arsenal: It will run on low-end, ultra-cheap hardware. The first phones are all under $100 and one rumoured to be under $40. It has some great backing by service providers who want to break the duopoly of Android and iOS. It’s got easy-to-build apps, fully HTML5 ready. And the first phone is almost out.
Chinks: It looks and feels sucky. Hardware, especially the screen display, looks weak for a smartphone. Taking on Android in the low-end market is not easy. OS is not geared for high-end phones.
Chances to pull off a coup: It will happen when pigs fly! They can’t win this on just price. With the constant fall in prices of hardware and processors, Android finally doesn’t feel like a torture test on low-end phones. Apple is also rumoured to be working on cheap versions. Firefox is two years too late.
Jolla Sailfish OS
What: The jolly giant with an amazing heart-warming story. An OS that will rise from the ashes of the brutally slain MeeGo. It has ex-Nokia employees who revived it as they truly believed in the OS.
Arsenal: Powerful interface with well-thought-out features. The most complete OS of the lot. MeeGo has a huge fan base already. It can do HTML5 and is compatible with Android apps. It’s the first smartphone up for pre-order. There’s a passionate group of people behind it.
Chinks: It needs a lot of money to reach its potential. It has no major backers other than the group itself. They will be manufacturing their own phones as of now, so scaling to become a world giant is tough. It is slightly similar to Tizen.
Chances to pull off a coup: If romantic and endearing stories of passion and perseverance always paid off, this would be a prime candidate. Unfortunately for every one story of success, there are 99 that have fallen by the way side. Do the math!
So am I saying that not one new OS can take on the awesome twosome? Let me put it another way. A new OS today has to be able to cover the whole gamut (economy and top-of-the-line), must be backed by service providers and multiple manufacturers and has to have killer differentiator features that get customers and users really excited.
Most of these new OSes can tick mark just one from the critical three. The first one to cover the gap and embrace all three could be the one to take on and vanquish the iOS-Droid kingdom. Don’t hold your breath, yet!
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, July 28
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