The rule of 3 states that in any free market economy, there are three major competitors that dominate the industry.
Take computers. Traditionally, consumers have had very little choice with computer OS systems (at least the non-geeks!). The desktop market is dominated by three players: Windows, Mac OS X and Ubuntu: the software development universe is largely built around these; Windows accounts for over 90% of the market share while OS X and Ubuntu account for 7 and 1 percent respectively.
On the mobile front, two leaders are clear. Android has an 70% market share worldwide while iOS has 21%. Between these two platforms, the respective software ecosystems have generated over a million apps. The fight now, is on for the the market’s number 3.
The mobile OS front has been a war of creative destruction. Symbian, which was a clear leader once is no more. So is the case with Symbian UIQ. Samsung just retired Bada, their low end platform. Over the last few years, we have witnessed the rise of many new platforms. In addition to the resurgent BlackBerry and Windows Phone, the past years has seen announcement/releases of four more new smartphone OSs. Here’s a look at what each of these has to offer -
1) Windows Phone 8 – The pretty, slick and fast (and not to mention very bright coloured) WP8, came out late last year and has been hosted by two very impressive flagship devices (Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC 8X). These phones have got customers flocking to their nearest stores and WP8 is seeing good adoption among smartphone users.
2) BlackBerry – It’s no more RIM; it’s BlackBerry now. With a new, fully touch OS, brand new devices and a celebrity creative director, recently rechristened BlackBerry has pulled out all stops with branding and advertisements. With the inclusion of a full touch device to their QWERTY line up, BlackBerry will be looking to improve on its languishing market share. They are big on apps and have conducted scores of hackathons and portathons to provide as many apps to their users on BB10 as possible.
3) Jolla Sailfish – After much hype, Jolla unveiled their OS at Slush late last year and since, they have tied up with Sony to launch their phone in Q1 2013. We got a glimpse of the OS’s workflow at the event and it has got many a smartphone enthusiast excited. While it might not be adopted by the masses early on, it already has a niche fan following, waiting to buy the device. And on the apps front, Sailfish runs most Android apps as is. Win, maybe?
4) Tizen – Another mobile OS built on the Linux kernel, the development of the Tizen OS is currently governed by Intel and Samsung. While there are no confirmed dates to its release (Samsung has “Bada” problems), the initial set of features on the OS with respect to HTML and Android apps compatibility makes it an appealing proposition. It will be interesting to see how Tizen is received when its first devices come out.
6) Ubuntu – With all these Linux based OSs coming out, it wasn’t surprising to see the granddaddy of all Linux distros come to the small screen. It’s clean, beautiful UI and its massive support that it garners in the open source community might just result in an uptake of devices running Ubuntu on their mobile devices as well. It’s still early days, and it will be interesting to see how this pans out in the coming months.
7) Java - As many rightly pointed out, this year is going to be about the low priced smartphone. While Android has made deep inroads into this space, Java OSs such as S40 continue to be popular. The recent success of Nokia Asha only proves this. Being the oldest language of mobile computing, its developer and user base Java might still be a front runner as a preferred platform for app development.
As an app developer, you need to place a bet. Building apps for more than one platform means additional revenue streams and this is common practice in most app development companies. But this comes at additional cost in development, support, updates and marketing.
We know that Android and iOS are going to be the platform of preference to build apps for. What will your third OS of preference be? We’ve put out a poll for you vote. Tell us your platform of preference and use the comments section to explain why.