Can you hear that?
Those are the sounds of a change.
Something is about to happen in 2013, and it’s going to be exciting.
No more a two-horse race. No more iOS vs. Android. It’s about time something will change around here.
Time for a third mobile operating system to come in and shake up the mobile realm a little bit.
Time for a new competitor to join the party.
After 2 years of a status-quo in the mobile operating systems, there are finally signs that a third mobile OS can break through this year. The conditions are here: iOS is getting old (and is not as cool as before), Apple is slowing down, Android is everywhere, in all shapes, colors, prices, but it’s still the same Android.
Time for a third option to join the race. Who shall it be?
Windows Phone 8
Yes, it took Microsoft forever to release WP7, and then to introduce a weird re-write of the underlying infrastructure to fit the Windows 8 technology. Microsoft, as usual, is lagging behind, but the Windows Phone OS is not.
It is actually an advanced OS, with a unique UX, and tons of potential.
Microsoft claims that WP8 is friendlier to the enterprise than iOS and Android. It includes all the security features required by IT managers, and comes pre-integrated with Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, OneNote and more.
In a way, I see the future of Windows Phone dependent on the success of Windows 8 and devices such as the Surface. If people will love Windows 8 and the new experience it brings (Metro, Modern UI, the name doesn’t matter), they are most likely to “feel home” with Windows Phone 8 and select it as their next smartphone.
And of course, there’s the devices thing as well. Smartphones, tablets, they must be cool. I think the Surface has what it takes to intrigue people, but I’m not sure Nokia and HTC are enough for the phones.
Will Microsoft be able to finally create the right volumes for Windows Phone? I believe 2013 will bring the beginning of it: more apps, more sales, more partners, and maybe finally a momentum for Windows Phone.
[Confession: I actually own a Windows Phone device, I think it is an amazing platform with inspiring user interface, yet I stopped using it after a few months, mainly because the apps ecosystem is still very poor. Hopefully this is about to change.]
Built on top of QNX, BlackBerry 10 is RIM’s last chance to survive. Palm did a similar move few years ago with webOS, and was acquired short after releasing it by HP. Some say the same will happen to RIM, but it doesn’t change the fact that BlackBerry 10 is soon to be released, for both smartphones and PlayBooks.
BlackBerry 10 is going to be completely different than older BlackBerries, a re-write, a new platform. It will have a better balance between personal stuff and enterprise data (sandbox) to support the growing BYOD challenges.
It also aims to be the leader in HTML5 capabilities (as seen in previous PlayBook models).
It comes late, but still on time to try and make a comeback (and think what an amazing comeback it can be!).
Will executives or IT managers give BlackBerry 10 a chance or is it too late for RIM?
I believe we will find the answers during 2013. Unlike Microsoft, RIM faces bigger challenges to create the volumes and the ecosystem, but unlike Microsoft, RIM still has enough users and organizations using older BlackBerry phones.
Ubuntu for phones
The creators of Ubuntu for phones, Canonical, is claiming that Ubuntu is the only true device independent platform out there. The only one that runs seamelessly across laptops, tablets and smartphones. As a result, apps that are running on the full Ubuntu for desktops will run on Ubuntu for phones with a bit of UI tuning.
Ubuntu for phones brings a refreshing design, and just like Microsoft’s WP8 – it’s all about the content and less about the chrome and buttons. Ubuntu looks similar to Android, but feels more like Windows Phone; it’s clean, it hides the menus, and focuses on the content.
Like BlackBerry 10, Ubuntu pushes HTML5 strongly, but it also treats HTML5 apps as first citizens of the OS and lets them sit alongside the native apps.
Will Ubuntu be the iOS/Android killer of the year?
Probably not, but I sure hope we will see some new smartphones packed with it during 2013 as the infrastructure approach and UX look promising.
I first witnessed Firefox OS in action exactly 12 months ago in the Mobile World Congress. Back then the name was Boot To Gecko, and it was already running on several Android phones.
A year went by and Firefox OS is just about to be released for developers this February.
In Firefox OS, HTML5 apps can make the phone vibrate, make a phone call, access the contacts list, camera or send a text message.
Do I really think Mozilla has any chance in competing with Google and Apple? The answer is no, but as I’m excited about HTML5, it’s a real pleasure to see how far can companies such as Mozilla push it.
Recommended read: Is HTML5 Truly Ready For Prime Time?
First 2 devices are expected to be released (only for developers) early February. Public devices are only expected to be released later this year.
Supported and managed mainly by Samsung and Intel, Tizen is an open source operating system designed to run on smartphones, tablets, IVI devices and smart TVs. It is a bit similar to Ubuntu for phones and just like Ubuntu it is built on top of Linux kernel.
Tizen specializes in running HTML5 applications outside of the browser (using webkit components) with both online and offline capabilities. It shares compatibility with Firefox OS and webOS (below) apps.
Should you bet on Tizen to be a popular kid in the mobile block? Well, answer in the image below:
webOS (AKA: Oh, not you again! Why don’t you die already!?)
How many attempts does it take to murder a mobile operating system? Well, you should probably ask HP this question as they are constantly abusing this poor platform.
The current trend with webOS is to make it an open source. HTC had shown interests for a few times already but for now it doesn’t look like any of the big mobile players is seriously considering working with it.
Palm’s webOS was actually the first OS to put HTML5 and web technologies in the center. It allows developers to build their apps using mobile-web technologies from the ground up, and access all the OS resources such as contacts, camera, sound etc.
Visually speaking webOS is considered to be a good product, which never had a real chance to compete with iOS and Android, but that was 3 years ago. Maybe now, when momentum is slowly changing there is a chance after all?
That’s it for this incomplete list of mobile operating systems which do not start with an ‘i’ and doesn’t carry a robot logo. The world is desperate for a new mobile platform that will break the recent boredom and challenge Apple or Google. If it happens, it’s most likely to be Windows Phone or BlackBerry 10, but let’s not count the other contenders out.
Next month in MWC many of the above alternatives will want to prove they can give a fight to iOS and Android. I will be there, checking, and learning. Looking for the next big thing in Mobile operating systems
MWC is just around the corner and I’m sure we will see many of those players live, running on reel devices.
In intend to be there myself and look for the one that can become the third largest mobile operating system.