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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.

The Results

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

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  1. Ed
    August 22, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Thank you for your kind words regarding my post. I am humbled!

    I never did state my current mobile OS of choice. I'm an Android user on phone, tablet, and TV box. I'm no power user and use Android for say 60% web browsing, 20% email, 10% media consumption, 10% actual phone

    What I don't like about Android is its inability to properly display web-based email from desktop web-sites. This is true on AOSP browser, Dolphin, mobile Firefox, Opera. I'm not a fan of mobile Chrome, so I haven't really tested it. This is true for desktop mail websites like Yahoo,, Zoho, etc... Gmail looks to be pretty good on Android from its desktop website though.

    I do not know if this is the same on iOS or Windows Phone.

    Another thing I do not like is that copy/paste does not seem to carry over formatting from Android email apps or from Web-based email sites.

    If anyone has any insights, it would be appreciated.

    That being said, I look forward to the day when a tablet or phone can be docked to a keyboard/mouse/monitor, bring up a desktop interface and readily retrieve documents from a NAS or file server on my local network.

    • likefunbutnot
      August 22, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      You can already make the docking part happen. Android control with a pointing device rather than touch is a bit wonky, but it's possible.

      Android can also access files from a Windows file server via any SMB client. Unfortunately, no client I'm aware of can open files until they're stored locally.

      Google Drive and Dropbox do allow many files to be shared and updated between devices in a seemless fashion, but of course there's the larger issue of what services you might trust to store that data.

      Finally, if your mobile device has enough pixels and you're using a proper desktop , it may be comfortable for you to simply access your desktop using an RDP or VNC client.

  2. WorknMan
    August 22, 2013 at 3:40 am

    It's nice to have a lot of OS's for consumer choice, but in truth, developer resources are finite. The last thing I'd want to see is a bunch of my 'must have' apps spread out across several platforms. And anybody who even dares to mention HTML5 is getting stabbed in the eye :P

    • likefunbutnot
      August 22, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      The best fix for a lot of this stuff is to develop rich web apps on a common platform; that's just common sense. HTML5 is a mess right now, but it will eventually be sorted out.

      Since Flash is a giant pile of suck with no future on mobile platforms, HTML5 is the only tool on the horizon for getting us there.

      I await my eye stabbing.

  3. Don Gateley
    August 21, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    I was really hoping that in the Results section you would give the results.

  4. Ryan D
    August 21, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I know this is a bit off-topic, but i think posting in the relevant article won't get it noticed, but I have an issue with the the giveaways , for the entries with the " +1 this link" there is no +1 button above the link appearing, and when i click the +1 on the link in the other window, it doesnt get recognized !