For most of the people, operating systems are the last thing they think of while buying handsets. This might be a big mistake since their entire mobile experience is dependent on their phones’ OS.
Take Maemo, for example. It has Linux software and can appear extremely feature rich for new users, although the lack of imaging software may laterprove to be a big irritation.
Missing applications in different devices might mar people’s entire phone experience. For instance, the organiser that works best with someone’s computer might not be compatible with the OS on his smartphone. This would make things very inconvenient for the user. Technically well versed people may find it easy to install the missing apps, but most will prefer to just buy handsets that provide them with all the tools they need.
Mobile operating system market report
According to a Gartner Report, the worldwide mobile OS market is going to be dominated by Symbian and Android by 2014. These two mobile operating systems will account for 59.8 per cent of the market, and by then, the status of Android will likely be that of a neck to neck competitor rather than a distant second.
There are currently four big operating systems in the handset market – Symbian, Android, Research In Motion and iOS — which will likely consolidate around platforms that manage to garner more support from device manufacturers and consumers.
Open source mobile operating systems are to have a market share of more than 60 per cent and proprietary operating systems are to get relegated lower down in the pecking order.
Symbian smartphone OS
Symbian is a mobile operating system used mostly on Nokia’s advanced or smart -phones. It runs on ARM processors and has evolved from Psion’s EPOC, which worked as an elementary OS for older generation electronic organisers. It was the 32 bit version of EPOC, which later became known as Symbian OS when Psion Software came together with Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola to create develop the platform.
The major advantage EPOC 32 had over the 16 bit version was that it could multitask, thus performing several functions at the same time. For ordinary users, it meant they could surf the web and answer incoming calls at the same time without losing data.
In the 1990s, Symbian was among the most popular operating systems and most major mobile manufacturing companies were using it. Several major mobile operating systems have come to market by now, but Symbian is a pioneer in the field.
Nokia acquired a major stake in Psion Software in 2008 and then created Symbian Foundation to run the project. Symbian smartphone software went open source in early 2010, which was among the largest transitions of a proprietary software going open source in the history of mobile phones. Symbian, over the years, has been majorly affected by the arrival of new mobile operating systems in the market. Two big mobile manufacturers Motorola and HTC, for instance, have decided to go big time into Android handset development.
In 2005, when Android Inc was a small startup headed by a software engineer called Andy Rubin, it was bought by Google and the team went on to develop a Linux based operating system for mobile devices. In 2007, several companies including Google, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Motorola, Intel, Qualcomm, HTC, and Nvidia came together to form Open Handset Alliance and assisted in the development of Android, which was revealed in October 2008.
Android’s supporters were excited when the Gartner report suggested that the OS will challenge the market domination of Symbian within three years. According to an article on Mashable four months ago, Android devices were outselling iPhones. A Wall Street Journal story says that Google’s chief executive officer believes Android related businesses are going to be worth $10 billion.
Windows Phone 7
Windows Phone 7 succeeds the Windows Mobile Platform from Microsoft. The previous version was targeted at the enterprise segment whereas Windows Phone 7 is aimed at users. It was launched in Europe in December 2010 and a month before that in the United States. It has a completely new interface, is developer friendly, but Microsoft plans to strictly control the hardware specs of the devices the OS is intended to run on.
While the Windows Phone operating system is said to be easy to use and is conveniently compatible with Windows PCs, which are ubiquitous, they are not easily customised to suit users. The Gartner report is completely dismissive of Microsoft’s efforts to enter the mobile OS market.
The other big contender in this market, Apple’s iOS, is said to follow a ‘closed door’ policy and is not open source. According to Gartner, this won’t be the way to be successful in the mobile OS market.
The iOS operating system (named so in June 2010 because it was being used on almost all the mobile devices from Apple including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, was earlier known as iPhone OS. Apple TV also uses the same OS, though the user interface is considerably different in it. Updates and security patches to the OS are provided through the iTunes store. The latest version of the OS, iOS version 4.0, is being developed now and enables the much awaited multitasking feature.
The iPhone watcher magazine says that in terms of the kernel, iOS devices don’t have any dearth of options. Making a fair comparison of core systems is even more difficult, but those who do make the effort find that iOS devices are extremely robust where it matters. The iOS operating system is very sophisticated and stable.
However, there are several areas where Apple is lagging behind – the most noticeable of which is multitasking. While other operating systems are good at multitasking, getting back to the map you were looking at on your iPhone is still difficult. There are several requested features that Apple needs to provide in future versions of its mobile OS.