The Mobile Operating Systems War

Race to the third spot

There is no better time than today in the wireless industry and the evolution of smartphones. With Android and iPhone securing their place as the top two Mobile OSes, the competition for the 3rd place is getting intense. As of today, Android has a global market share of 79% and iOS has about 16% of world’s smartphones. There are several operating systems that are strong contenders for this third spot.

Microsoft Windows OS
Based on the recent reports, Microsoft smart phone operating system now accounts for 3.9% of world’s smartphone market share and has already surpassed RIM’s Blackberry. It is also the fastest growing OS for smartphones and analysts are predicting it to maintain that growth over the next 4 years. With Microsoft’s renewed focus on enterprise, its acquisition of Nokia and the wide open space in enterprise Mobile phone market after BlackBerry’s recent debacle, Microsoft has a great opportunity to be at No. 3.

Mozilla Firefox OS
Mozilla, the company that is better known for its Firefox browsers launched their Mobile OS for smartphones in 2013. Their open source OS is gaining traction and now has several partners like ZTE, Huawei, Alcatel as well as several backers such as Facebook, Twitter and Qualcomm. Apparently Panasonic is using Mozilla OS for their Smart TVs and Mozilla is launching their own $25 smart phone that they announced this week at Mobile World Congress. While I like the OS for its clean look and simplicity, the success of their OS will depend on how much they can succeed to build an ecosystem of developers.

Ubuntu is a Linux-based operating system which is built on top of Android and uses Android to interact with some of the hardware on the device. While it is not a fully functional OS, the new generation of OS, also known as Ubuntu Touch is a great step in giving Ubuntu its own identity which is distinct from Android. The first smart phone powered by Ubuntu is targeted to hit the markets in 2014.

Although Samsung is the biggest official partner of Google, Samsung is working on their own OS. Right now it appears that Tizen is the primary OS for wearables, where as Samsung will use Andorid for smartphones. But if Samsung decides to put some weight behind its own OS as an alternate to Android, Tizen could be a strong competitor to Microsoft’s OS for the third spot. Tizen is open source, is HTML5 based (supports native and HTML5 apps) and with Samsung’s global scale and range of devices from wearables, to smart TVs to appliances, it has a lot of potential.

The last contender in the race and probably the fastest growing one is CyanogenMod. It started out as an open source variant of Android to empower users with functionality and performance enhancements not available in Google’s Android. Originally available to side load on supported Android devices, the team is currently working with Google to launch official installer available. The first official phone with CyanogenMod out of the box was launched in 2013 and the operating system currently supports over 220 devices with millions of installs and developer fans around the world. The company’s recent partnership with OnePlus and lofty plans to expand their OS to other carriers and OEMs, CyanogenMod has a high chance of becoming the 3rd Mobile operating system.

Which operating system will be the winner for the third sport will become clearer in the next year or so. But for now all I can say that Google and Apple should expect some tough competition in near future and all mobile users should be ready for some great options to take their Mobile phone experience to the next level.