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Alternative mobile operating systems gain momentum

Posted: 17 Nov 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Operating system  OS  Android  open source 

Google and Apple have overtaken Microsoft and Blackberry in the mobile operating system space, but available alternatives to consumers are slowly getting stronger foothold. ABI Research probes the nascent alternative mobile OSes, with Android forks leading the charge.

"Beyond the far reaching availability of Android, more than 360 million Android Open Source Project handsets are expected to ship this year in China and other emerging markets," says Shelli Bernard, research analyst at ABI Research. "Corporations are working to enable web-based offerings, with one of the most notable being Mozilla's Firefox OS. While smartphones and tablets are an obvious focus within this space, the growing capabilities of devices such as smart watches, TVs and in-car entertainment systems are expanding the selection of devices that can utilise these types of advanced OSes."

Some alternative OSes focus on specific functional or feature problems in the major OSes, such as improved focus on customisation, enhanced overall security, better compatibility with device characteristics and ability for localised innovation. Other reasons why alternative OSes thrive are due to the business needs of a range of companies, including OEMs, carriers, industry groups and online retailers, among others.

"Independent OSes allow OEMs to move away from the influence of larger corporations and have more input and control over the design of their products," continues Bernard. "Online retailers also benefit from building their own OSes, as it is a welcome solution to help expand their offerings while more seamlessly targeting their services to consumers."

Yet, with benefits come challenges, with the most notable being alternative OSes' limited ecosystem in comparison to its counterparts. More dominant OSes have built out large ecosystems across devices and applications to better serve customer needs while offering a wide range of choices. The alternative OSes often have a more limited selection of apps and services, which are elements that often require time and resources to develop.

"While there is some adoption of alternative OSes in developed markets, these are heavily dominated by mainstream, more established OSes," concludes David McQueen, Research Analyst at ABI Research. "Many alternative OSes, particularly those derived from the AOSP and Tizen, are seeing high levels of adoption in some Asia-Pacific markets where Google services are less accessible. In emerging regions, web-based offerings, such as Firefox OS, are also being targeted by local vendors at lower cost markets in an attempt to improve the overall accessibility of smartphones."

Read ABI Research's Alternative Mobile Operating Systems report.

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