In the fast-paced mobile application development space where new frameworks, platforms, technologies and devices appear every other week, CIOs and CMOs must keep an eye out all the time. That’s why events like the Mobile World Congress (MWC) are thronged by techies from the geek to the executive.
This years’ MWC revealed four new alternative mobile operating systems – Ubuntu Touch, Tizen, Firefox OS, and Sailfish. As per reviews, Ubuntu Touch is the most promising of the lot though not ready to offer competition to Android or iOS. But just like Android in its early days, Ubuntu Touch shows promise. Another new operating system that needs mention here is the BlackBerry 10 OS from RIM. All of the new operating systems are open source (except BlackBerry 10). They are being driven by community effort and in-house teams. They are also open for device manufacturers to customize for their own brand and device types – smartphone, tablet, or other chip-equipped devices such as televisions, navigation devices, computers, entertainment systems, accessories, apparel, etc. This factor will be the trump card for the newbies.
Ubuntu Touch from Canonical
Winner of the Best in Show award from CNET, Ubuntu Touch is Canonical’s brainchild. The developer preview of Ubuntu Touch was recently made available on Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets as well as Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus smartphones. A porting guide was shared with details on how Ubuntu Touch works which has pushed the OS on to at least 25 more devices than planned – a great accomplishment.
MWC attendees were impressed with the OS’ performance. It was much better than expected though it isn’t production-ready yet. It includes features like ‘side stage’ where you can have a smartphone and tablet app on the screen simultaneously. The OS supports full disk encryption (personal and business data) which will be great for safeguarding data on devices shared by multiple users. The content display and organization also got a thumbs up.
The final version of Ubuntu Touch is expected to launch by April 2014.
Firefox OS from Mozilla
Mozilla is backing Firefox OS – pushing it for its web application development support. The Firefox browser enjoys user popularity but will Firefox OS? Reviewers were disappointed with the operating system’s buggy and laggard performance.
On the other hand, Firefox OS has the support of 4 phone manufacturers and 18 operators. Sony could be shipping out a smartphone with the Firefox OS for developers to test and start creating applications. Mozilla plans to launch a Store to host developers’ apps written in HTML5. Facebook and Twitter have already agreed to build an app for the OS.
Firefox OS’ public release is expected in 2014 in the US.
Tizen from Samsung
After Bada, Samsung is experimenting with Tizen that is also Linux based. Samsung and Intel are overseeing the development of Tizen, and Samsung proposes to launch many handsets with the OS this year. Other parties supporting the new OS include the carriers France Telecom-Orange and DoCoMo who have signed up to sell Tizen 2.0 handsets this year. Samsung and Huawei will be the hardware providers.
However, as in the case of Firefox OS, Tizen failed to impress.
Sailfish from Jolla
Former Nokia employees have reinvented the MeeGo platform in the Sailfish OS. The first version of the SDK is available and the founding company Jolla plans to ship products with the OS on board by next month. We’ll know more then.
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