Mobile phones slowly but surely became dominant, with everyone from students to octogenarians, from cleaners to CEOs, owning one. And then came the smartphone, which is currently growing just as ubiquitous. This means there is a war taking place among hardware manufacturers, software giants, and app developers to decide which brand and which operating system is king.
One operating system is way out in front in terms of market share at the time of writing, with another very well established in certain countries. But these two, as-yet-unnamed, entities face challenges from the also-rans and new contenders… possibly. Which led to us enjoying an interesting debate all about mobile operating systems for last week’s We Ask You column.
We asked you, Besides Android & iPhone, Is There Room For Another Mobile OS? We had a healthy response to this question, with dozens of you chiming in with your verdict on whether Android and iOS, the aforementioned operating systems, have the market sewn up, or are instead ripe to be taken down a peg or two by a young pretender to the throne.
These young pretenders include the already established Windows Phone and BlackBerry OS, as well as Firefox OS and the Ubuntu/Android dual-booting monster that is the Ubuntu Edge. The problem for all of these is that Android has a 79.3 percent market share, and iOS has a 13.2 percent market share, which consists of a hardcore fanbase.
The comments section was surprisingly devoid of fanboyism from either side, which was very refreshing. Most people have merely chosen the mobile operating system which suits them best for now, but are open to alternatives. A few commenters think that Google and Apple have the market to themselves, but most think there is room (and a need) for more options.
Comment Of The Week
We had great input from the likes of Migi Domingo, likefunbutnot, and Tom S, to name just a few. Comment Of The Week goes to Ed, who, as well as the respect of myself and hopefully everybody reading this, receives a T-shirt for this comment:
I see room for 4-5 mobile OSs. This would involve three strategies within the low-end, traditional, and ultra-high end markets.
We need something to capture the low end market for inexpensive smartphones. This is where Firefox OS may work as feature phones should disappear and make way towards low priced smart/feature phones (especially for no-contract phones). As long as Mozilla can provide the core apps (Browser, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Email, file viewers for docs-images-etc, music player and video player, and a few popular games initially), the rest should take care of itself over time. If they focus on countries and smaller developing markets not focused on by the big guys, they should do fine before coming to bigger markets.
The “traditional OSs” like Android and iOS will dominate the regular and high-end markets, while Windows Phone will carry third place and continue to rise over the years. MS is in it for the long haul. Their primary revenue comes from business services now. They used to be in last place in gaming. They stuck it out over the long haul and are now first in gaming. They will never drop out of the mobile market and will rise little by little using a very long term strategy.
Lastly, I see an “ultra-high end market”, if you will. This market should focus on convergence and provide a strategy for converging mobile with desktop. A phone that presents a mobile OS even when paired with a wireless keyboard and pointing device, but no external monitor. It will mirror its mobile-view screen to an external monitor when no keyboard or pointing device is attached. Lastly, it will give the user the option of offering a desktop-like interface when keyboard/mouse/external monitor are connected to the phone. A tablet would give the option of a desktop-like interface as soon as an external keyboard/mouse is detected, the same when keyboard/mouse/ external monitor is detected. The “mobile” apps could be used windowed or full-screen while in desktop-mode. This convergence using Android could have an Ubuntu-for-Android type approach or could be a Chrome OS approach where Chrome OS would be the desktop environment, the Android widgets would display on the Chrome desktop, and Android apps would open as the Chrome OS stand-alone apps do or within tabs under the Chrome browser. The convergence on iOS should consider providing some sort of emulation for some key Mac-OS apps of Apple’s choosing when in desktop mode. MS should do the same for its phone strategy. MS should also consider making Windows RT a large-screen version of Windows Phone just as iOS is on the iPad and ONLY enable an optional desktop interface when external hardware is detected on the tablet(but provide this desktop interface with x86 emulation). The design of the MS desktop interface in this convergence strategy should be more integrated with the Modern (Metro) design, but allow windowing.
Wow, that was a mouthful!
We like this comment mainly because this commenter knows his (based solely on the name) stuff, setting forth a detailed overview of the smartphone market as he sees it. The tiered marketplace and possible convergence between desktop and smartphone operating systems is absolutely spot-on.
We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to the MakeUseOf readership. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.
Image Credit: NRKbeta