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Life gets tougher for alternative mobile OSes Tizen, Firefox and Ubuntu

Mikael Ricknäs | June 9, 2015
An increased focus on affordable smartphones running Android has left smaller OSes behind

Meanwhile, Canonical is working with Spanish hardware maker BQ on a high-end Ubuntu-based smartphone designed to double as a PC when connected to an external screen and keyboard, according to Cristian Parrino, vice president of Mobile and Online Services at Canonical.

It will also be the first Ubuntu device that's not based on a previously released Android smartphone. "For once we'd like to come out with a device at the same time as it comes out on Android," Parrino said.

For example, BQ launched last week its second device running Canonical's OS, the €200 ($220) Aquaris E5 HD Ubuntu Edition, whose Android edition started shipping last year. The smartphone has a 5-inch HD screen, a 13-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. While the launch is a step in the right direction, the smartphone lacks LTE and features a low-end quad-core 1.3GHz Cortex-A7 processor from MediaTek.

One development that would help all the OSes is wider support from smartphone manufacturers, but up and coming vendors such as Xiaomi and India's Micromax Informatics have showed little interest in the newcomers, preferring Android instead.

Xiaomi has its own MIUI user interface and Micromax is collaborating with Cyanogen. The alternative OSes don't have enough scale. When even Microsoft is struggling to compete, it's hard to see how the smaller platforms can make a difference, Micromax chairman Sanjay Kapoor said in an interview earlier this year.

To help with growth, Samsung has installed Tizen on smartwatches and TVs. The latter is a product category Mozilla is going after, as well. Panasonic has started rolling out its first Firefox OS Viera TVs. Success won't come easier in these two sectors, but it could help raise the profile of the two operating systems.

Still, with a combined market share of less than 0.4 percent, all three OSes face an uphill battle, and if they disappear, it would be a loss for consumers, because it would mean less competitive pressure for Apple and Google.


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