CES was an awesome week of crash-landing tech news. We got wind of the first consumer-ized 4K televisions, heard of 6-gigabit capable Wi-Fi routers, Smart TVs, and new Android-equipped gaming handhelds. There were a lot of things to go over, and most of it passed by for those who weren’t on the show floor. However, some fairly big news that quite well may still have passed by for the average user came in the form of cell phone operating systems.

 

No, I’m not talking about a new version of iOS, or updated Android phones (though there was plenty of that). I’m bringing up an intriguing new issue: new companies are gearing up to introduce their very own cell phone operating systems. This isn’t just one extra, perhaps a competitor to the now-growing Windows Phone 8. I’m talking about BlackBerry 10, Firefox OS, Sailfish, and Ubuntu Mobile, as well as Windows Phone.

 

Holy smokes.

 

What does this mean? Well, for starters, competition is going to get a lot more cramped. If we include silly numbers, Android sits at a U.S. market share of 52%, with Apple falling in at an even 35%. The last 14 percent is comprised of RIM (BlackBerry) at 7%, “Others” at 5%, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone sitting at 2%.

 

 

Q3-2012-US-Smartphone-OS-market-share

 

 

Now, what does this mean without silly numbers? Google and Apple are sharing huge chunks of a small pie, and competing corporations are starving to get a bite. See where I’m going with this? We’ve got four new operating systems, plus one that’s baby-feeding from the nozzle. Let’s do a run-through of each, shall we?

 

 

 

 

Windows Phone

 

My personal OS of choice, Microsoft’s modern offering has a lot going for it, but is generating consumer interest too slowly. Since my adoption of the Xbox, my interest in Microsoft’s universal “ecosystem” has been strong, and their phone only accelerated that interest. Now, in 2013, the trifecta is complete. Xbox, Windows Phone 8, and Windows 8 all allow for me to take something and pick it up in another area of my tech life. If I start a Word document or take a picture on my phone, and using Skydrive, I can finish or edit it on my W8 PC, and finally view it on my Xbox, should I wish to.

 

This, along with a simple, interesting and elegant interface give it a great edge above the main powerhouses, in my opinion. Xbox Music and Achievement integration is a nice plus, as well. Only problem is, developer support is less than positive at this point. Name a high-name application on your iPhone or Android, and most likely it is not yet on Windows. 120,000 apps, as compared to the big dog’s 700,000+ is a big difference, and Microsoft has to push for it to gain the same kind of support and traction as the names it’s trying to compete with.

Multi-tasking is designed to be out-of-mind, with easy task switching, and auto-resource management. As a result, the OS stays lightning smooth at all times, never requiring a reboot.

 

 

 

 

RIM – BlackBerry 10


RIM, back in the good ol’ days was the head honcho of cell phones. They led the pack, and showed the world what they could do with Messaging integration that was unrivaled on any other platform. However, RIM struggled once Apple paved the way for full-screened smart phones, and suddenly their functionality seemed limited. Businesses held strong, and that last 7% is surely still the Enterprise, using the BB Messaging service for their uses.

 

With BB 10, the little (not really) company that could is hoping to bring back the pain with a new, full touchscreen-compatible OS. The main features that they’re touting are full-functional chatting suites with BB Messenger, AOL, Kik, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and way more than I could mention – straight out of the box. You open your package and start up BB 10, and you have access to chatting with all of your accounts you put in without ever downloading an annoying app.

The OS itself is very akin to the rows of icons we’re grown accustomed to, with a few extra gestures that set it apart. Its homescreen has four large windows for multi-tasking, and reminds me a lot of WebOS. Whether it succeeds in comparison, we’ll have to wait until March to find out.

 

 

 

 

Firefox OS and Sailfish


Both of these are unique, in that they take some new approaches to traditional smart phone design, and aren’t specifically targeting 1st World markets. Why mention them, then? Because, they’re still smart phones, they’re still operating systems, and still have a very good chance of showing up to our market, even if it seems far off now.

 

You know the creators of the desktop web-browser Firefox, called Mozilla. With Firefox OS, the little organization hopes to start up a mid-range line of smart phones that are completely HTML 5 based. In effect, this means that the phone would not actually run “apps”, as we’ve come to know them as, or miniature programs. Instead, the OS would simply take mobilized, handheld-friendly websites and optimize them for the best way of use. The user would be able to access all HTML 5 compliant websites, and use hardware acceleration to blast through them at surprising speed. The layout of the interface is like an even more simplified version of iOS, with slightly larger icons, and less rows in a batch.

 

 

 

Sailfish is being worked on by a foreign tech company called Jolla. It’s a dramatically altered SDK of Linux, and is designed to run on both smart phones, and much more, including: tablets, cameras, netbooks, and GPS consoles. Its primary focus is multi-tasking, and heavy gesture-based customization. The screens are very gesture-oriented, so for example to if you want to easily access one of your favorite applications, like messaging, you could swipe a circle on the screen and it would start up, in theory. The big kicker with Sailfish, is that its core engine is highly compatible with Android applications, so it would be capable of running much of what is offered from Android, be it slightly un-optimized.

 

 

 

 

Ubuntu Mobile


The seriously odd one out of the bunch, Ubuntu Mobile was recently unveiled in-depth at CES a couple of weeks ago. Similarly to Firefox, it’s designed with mid-range handsets in mind, but has one big selling point: It’s complete Linux Ubuntu, but on your handset.

 

Everything that Linux users are accustomed to on their desktop, is being transferred in a more mobile-centric manner to smart phones. This means that the loading dock for applications is there, pulled open by a side-swiping gesture from the left, and the open-sourcing of Linux is completely there, as you would imagine it is. The most notable feature that has been promised with the OS however, is screen-jumping the operating system to your desktop monitor. Screen-jumping as in, you plug your phone into a dock attached to your monitor, and the OS scales itself to be a fully-operating Ubuntu OS on your desktop, just as if you had installed it on your tower regularly.

 

 

 

And there you have it. Within two years, we’re going to see some serious competition in the mobile space. Perhaps Google and Apple will continue to hog the pie, or perhaps within that time there will be so much competition that the odds will even out in the market.

 

It leaves me with a few questions, both for myself, and for you guys as well.

 

For one, is there really enough space in the market for so many start-up competitors? Some might say that there is really only room for the top two, others may think that there’s ample space for all 7 to duke it out.

 

Which operating system sounded the most appealing to you? Personally, I’ve already invested in my OS of choice, being WP8. I like the design and unique pop to it, but others may enjoy the familiarity of BlackBerry 10.

 

Do you think that mobile operating systems are evolving at a fast enough pace, or are we stuck in a static rut? I feel like too many people are focused on the all-too-common icon grid that was familiarized with iOS. I don’t know what else we could get, but every new OS coming out other than WP8 is grid-based.

 

 

 

That finalizes my post.

Thanks for reading,

 

~ GoldvsSilver