A handful of new smartphone platforms are expected to become available
this year, challenging the stranglehold of the two market leaders,
Google's Android and Apple's iOS.
Android and Apple account for more
than 90 percent of the surging smartphone market, and third place is
being contested by BlackBerry and Microsoft's Windows Phone.
phones using operating systems based on the open-source platforms Linux
and Mozilla's Firefox will be hitting the market this year, most likely
in emerging markets.
Among smartphone makers, "there is a
consensus that there is room for a couple more operating systems," said
Ramon Llamas, analyst with the research firm IDC.
"Maybe not globally, but in some markets which could be used as proving grounds."
IDC survey showed Apple and Android accounted for 91.1 percent of all
smartphones sold in 2012, but that new platforms are worth watching in a
market with 46 percent growth last year.
The Mozilla Foundation,
developer of the Firefox browser and a new mobile operating system,
claims to have 17 operators on board and plans Firefox OS phones in
Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and
The key player being watched, however, is Samsung,
which is the biggest smartphone maker with some 40 percent of all
Android phones but is planning new devices using Tizen, an operating
system based on Linux.
The Tizen Association, which also includes
France's Orange, Japan's NTT DoCoMo, China's Huawei and US-based Intel,
say the firms "view openness as a key to raising the bar for user
Some analysts were surprised by Samsung's move,
saying it's not clear if the South Korean giant is trying to distance
itself from Google and Android, which is a free operating system but
offers advertising possibilities to the Silicon Valley firm.
"I wonder about Samsung's motivation," said Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies.
get out from Google's control might be part of it, but I'm not sure how
rational that is. The partnership has been very fruitful for both
companies, and it's hard to see where the negatives are."
Markkanen, an analyst with ABI Research, said Samsung is trying to
break free from Google and that Tizen could be the key for that.
signs are pointing to Samsung trying to pull off a Great OS Escape
within the next year or two," Markkanen said in a blog post, adding that
the platform "will be given a kick start with the software and service
portfolio that Samsung has accumulated" along with "Samsung's gargantuan
Other Linux phone systems are also readying their entry.
a Linux-based operating system promoted by British software firm
Canonical, expects to have phones ready later this year. And Sailfish,
another Linux variant from Finnish-based Jolla Mobile, has released its
program for developers.
Analysts say smartphone makers are seeking
to mimic the success of Apple by controlling both the hardware and
"We are seeing more desire to control the
whole user experience," said Gerry Purdy, analyst and consultant with
the firm Mobile Trax.
A major challenge for any new platform,
however, will be developing the applications that make up the ecosystem.
These are key attractions for users of the iPhone and Android devices.
some apps can be developed across platforms using HTML5, a programming
language that can be adapted for different devices, analysts say these
are inferior to "native" apps developed for a specific platform,
can provide a reasonable experience with HTML5 and the browser, but the
native app is smoother, cleaner and more natural," Purdy said. "It's
pretty obvious when you watch them side by side."
Even a powerful
firm like Samsung will have a hard time putting together an app
ecosystem that can compete with Apple's App Store and Google Play.
is some open space, but putting together an entire ecosystem and doing
that where there are established incumbents is a pretty iffy
proposition," Kay said.
Because of these obstacles, Llamas said progress for any new system will be "long and slow."
of these things will happen overnight. There has to be time for
gestation, reception and evangelization. And picking the markets will be
important," he added.