The Vibrant Open Source Smartphone OS Market

Ubuntu smartphone
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The mobile OS market is only getting more awesome with each passing year. There are new players on the horizon challenging the might of Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone. And almost all of them are based on Linux and are designed around an open source philosophy.

Just like the Linux desktop, they will all surely inspire many derivatives with interesting designs, wonderful UIs and innovative hardware specifications.

Currently, Ubuntu is ranked number one on the open source desktop environment by a long margin. Currently enjoying over 20 million active users. It has also inspired countless derivatives, some of them are extremely popular themselves, like Linux Mint, with the user community.

Many of these OSs will not only be used on mobile phones but would probably create a niche tablet, TV and Chrome like laptop markets for themselves. Especially Ubuntu Touch and FirefoxOS. They both enjoy widespread brand recognition and dedicated following in millions. In case of Firefox it is in the browser space, but if Chrome can translate that into a niche market as an OS, Firefox too can capture a chunk of the market. Keep in mind the most popular notebook on Amazon is a ChromeOS book for the past many months.

Granted, neither of them will dethrone Google’s Android or Apple’s iPhone in the near future but will definitely give Windows Phone a run for its money. Nokia beware.

firefox

Big established names like Sony (bringing out FirefoxOS Phone), Samsung (Tizen Phone) and LG (WebOS TV) are already betting their futures on open source Linux mobile OSes. And it wont just be limited to smartphones, but will probably also encompass tablets, TVs and other interactive mobile devices.

Brand: FirefoxOS
Vendors: T-Mobile, Qualcomm, Sprint others
SDK: Available for HTML 5 and open web standards

Brand: Ubuntu
Vendors: None announced yet.
SDK Development: APIs for native and HTML 5 apps

Brand: OpenWebOS
Vendors: None yet, though LG has licensed WebOS for its TV platform
SDK: JavaScript-based application frameworks

Brand: Tizen
Vendors: Samsung
SDK: Tizen SDK

Brand: Sailfish
Vendors: None officially announced
SDK: SailfishOS SDK

Android and iPhone platforms are strong because of the vibrant eco-system they have developed around it, including thousands of apps for their platform. And then there are numbers of phones manufactured in one year. Apple alone produced over 47million iPhones in the last quarter of 2012. Samsung’s S3 is outselling Apple in some markets making it the most successful Android Phone. These are staggering statistics in themselves. There is also strong and active developer community producing software, including games, for these platforms. Getting the same support for open source will be a challenge. Firefox was able to attract thousands to develop for its browser, can they do the same for the OS? They have signed up many partners including Sony, T-Mobile and developers like Electronic Arts and Disney, but only time will tell if these relationships translate into meaningful results.

It will be also interesting to see how each one of them will sidestep patent infringements owned by Nokia, Microsoft, Google and Apple. Surely, some of them will end up in court battles. There is also a chance that some of these will fizzle out due to lack of users and apps but still, it is probably the most exciting time since, well, the arrival of iPhone itself some years ago.


Techie by day, blogger by night. Love the outdoors, enjoy traveling and building new and interesting things. Follow me if you want to know something.

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