Light Reading

5 Challengers to Apple & Android

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

The dominance of Apple Inc.'s iOS and Google's Android mobile operating systems could be about to weaken as several startups and projects have emerged that will shake up the smartphone scene in 2013. From a band of cast-off Nokia Corp. employees to a giant like Microsoft, these groups have created platforms that could offer new devices, applications and services for consumers and more supplier choices for mobile operators. Here's a rundown of the mobile OS challengers to watch this year:

  • Firefox -- The open-source mobile operating system based on HTML5 from the Mozilla organization won support from several mobile operators and device makers in 2012, including Deutsche Telekom AG, Etisalat, Sprint Nextel Corp., Telecom Italia SpA, Telefonica SA as well as ZTE Corp.. The first devices are expected to be available early in 2013.
  • Sailfish -- Based on the MeeGo OS, this platform was created by a group of ex-Nokia employees at the Finnish startup Jolla. The company unveiled the Sailfish OS and Jolla user interface in November 2012, which featured multitasking capabilities. Jolla plans to launch the first Sailfish-based device early in 2013. (See Nokia Refugees Revive MeeGo and One Giant Leap for MeeGo.) Jolla also established an industry alliance in Hong Kong to develop a version of the Sailfish OS for the Chinese market.
  • Tizen -- Samsung and Intel led the project to develop this open-source, standards-based software platform that is a part of The Linux Foundation. The OS has support from mobile operators and device makers, including NTT Docomo Inc., Orange SA, Sprint, Telefonica, Vodafone Group plc and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.. The latest update was in September 2012 when the Tizen 2.0 alpha source code and SDK were made available. Tizen allows developers to use HTML5 so that applications can run on different devices. The OS is not only for smartphones but also for tablets, netbooks, in-vehicle devices and smart TVs. The big news for Tizen is that Samsung has said it plans to release smartphones based on the new OS in 2013.
  • Ubuntu -- U.K.-based Canonical is the company behind the Linux-based Ubuntu platform, and it announced a new mobile operating system at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. With the new OS, Ubuntu aims to bring the desktop PC experience to high-end as well as entry-level smartphones. Devices running the OS are expected in early 2014.
  • Windows Phone – Microsoft's mobile OS has probably been eyeing a third-place spot behind Google and Apple for the longest time compared to the other challengers on our list. Nokia, the platform's biggest device maker, started the year with some good news for its Windows-based Lumia smartphones: The Finnish company shipped 4.4 million Lumias in the fourth quarter of 2012, which is better than it had expected. But Nokia isn't the only fan of Windows Phone, and the newer version Windows Phone 8. Other manufacturers for this platform include HTC, Huawei and Samsung. -- Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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    Michelle Donegan
    Michelle Donegan,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    1/16/2013 | 12:00:36 PM
    re: 5 Challengers to Apple & Android
    RIM's Blackberry 10 will have its moment of truth, so to
    speak, at the end of this month when the first new devices come out. I think
    the newer platforms mentioned here will have RIM's OS in their sights as well those
    of Apple and Google.-á
    Michelle Donegan
    Michelle Donegan,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    1/16/2013 | 11:29:15 AM
    re: 5 Challengers to Apple & Android
    A company called Phoenix International Communications is promising the rebirth of webOS, but I'm not sure that they have any device makers on board yet.-á
    User Rank: Light Beer
    1/16/2013 | 9:21:05 AM
    re: 5 Challengers to Apple & Android
    What about Open Web OS (formerly Palm OS)?
    User Rank: Light Beer
    1/16/2013 | 2:02:43 AM
    re: 5 Challengers to Apple & Android
    No mention of BB10?
    Michelle Donegan
    Michelle Donegan,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    1/15/2013 | 9:44:50 PM
    re: 5 Challengers to Apple & Android
    Windows Phone is the only OS on the list that's running on any devices now. But 2013 will see smartphones based on Firefox, Tizen and Sailfish, so change is definitely in the air.-á
    But I wonder how effective these new platforms will be. Firefox and Tizen at least have some big operator backers, which is important.-á
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