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New smartphone OSes take baby steps forward

Mikael Ricknäs | Aug. 28, 2013
Newcomers Firefox, Ubuntu, Sailfish and Tizen won't challenge Android's dominance anytime soon, but can still survive, according to analysts.

"We think it has been a success for many reasons, even though we didn't reach our objective. The whole idea of Indiegogo was to signal opportunity for more innovation in hardware manufacturing. The specification and feature set we built into the campaign was very well advanced in terms of the Edge being a device that could be both smartphone and a PC," said Richard Collins, product manager for Ubuntu Mobile.

The first major milestone for the OS will come in October when Canonical will release a version that's mature enough for hardware manufacturers to start working on devices that would then become available during the second quarter next year, according to Collins. Those first devices will be more akin to smartphones instead of the converged device the Edge was supposed to be, he said.

"Our discussions with hardware manufacturers are very productive. But there is a real difficulty and inertia about them really thinking about what's going to change and what can be done. The reason for that is with existing OS providers there isn't really the scope to deliver the kind of product we were promoting on Indiegogo," Collins said.

The success of Ubuntu will depend on hardware manufacturers recognizing that there is not sufficient opportunity for them just working with Android, according to Collins.

Last week Jolla announced that the first production batch of Sailfish smartphones had been fully booked by consumers and sales channels in 136 countries, which shows that there is demand for more OS options, said Jolla's CEO Tomi Pienimäki.

"The number of countries was a real surprise. Yes, we knew that there was interest elsewhere than Finland and Europe, but not to that extent," said Pienimäki.

The company doesn't want to say how large the batch is. But the development of the OS and the first smartphone, which was announced in May, is going well. On the software side, the company is working on improving performance, adding features and is fixing bugs, according to CTO Stefano Mosconi.

"The production has started and we have received many different rounds of prototypes. Overall, the situation looks extremely positive," he said.

The first Jolla smartphone is targeted to begin shipping by the end of the year, starting in Europe.

While Firefox, Ubuntu and Sailfish have all made waves in the last couple of weeks, not much has been heard from Intel and Samsung regarding Tizen OS devices since Mobile World Congress back in February. Operators Orange and DoCoMo said then that they planned to start selling the first smartphones running Tizen during the second half of the year.

"From our perspective not much has changed regarding our position on Tizen. We have always been relatively clear that we are supporting Tizen to bring more diversity and that is still the case," said Patrick Remy, vice president of devices at Orange Group.


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