in Mobile Phones

Mobile Operating Systems, something is (slowly) changing

The market scenario for mobile Operating Systems today can be divided in three categories:

  • Plenty of proprietary Real Time Operating System almost closed to third parties.
  • Symbian, including UIQ.
  • Windows mobile.
  • SavaJE OS. (They actually launched one device, at least).

That’s it. Not much to play around with.

In the past few weeks we have seen plenty of speculations and some announcement that will change the scenario in near (hopefully) future.

Let’s start with the speculations.

Google

It seem that Google is going to enter the Mobile Operating System market. Lots of speculations and rumors. DailyWireless has the most comprehensive analysis (according to my opinion) on the subject. You can read it here.

And now some real stuff or, at least, some confirmed stuff.

SavaJE

Unfortunately it seems that the company has shut down operations. I had to opportunity to meet some of the guys at SavaJE in a trip to Boston last year before attending the JavaOne Conference. Really smart guys with a vision.

Unfortunately the company went through some issues with funding and they were forced to shut down operations. Actually this news was never confirmed official but this is what it seems has happened.

Intellectual property of the SavaJE OS has been recently acquired bu Sun Microsistems. (Press Release here).

This is great news. The project they were working was really cool and it deserved to be continued.

Basically a Multi Tasking Multi Threading kernel with integrated JVM and CDC on top for applications. That was a great choice. I really loved the product and it was there!

OpenMoko

Relatively new but with a product on the line.

This is and Open Source linux based operating system. The User Interface side is powered buy Gnome.

They have already released a device called Neo1973. (Specifications here)

In some way the recent announcement of GMAE (Global Mobile and Embedded Initiative, site here) will help the knowledge of Gnome development for mobile and embedded platforms.

Qtopia GreenPhone

Another linux based operating system. They have their own platform environment for User Interface.

You can actually buy a unit for custom development.

As you can see there is lot of movement in this area.

I think that it will take time for these kind of initiatives to take their space in the market.

The first, and most obvious reason, is that every single operating system will need great support from handset vendors and need to be backed up strongly by operators. Who will be the first operator to take advantage of this opportunity is a hard question to answer.

If I have to make a metaphor I would say that today operators bought operating systems as a carton box. You can open the box but you cannot decide what’s in the box. With these new operating system operators may decide what’s in the box and what material the box is made of. Definitively an opportunity to take.

The other difficulty I see is that most of these implementations are GSM/GPRS. WCDMA or UMTS is a different game requiring great engineering support.

Finally all of these operating system are quite demanding in terms of memory and processing power and this will lead to expensive hardware, at least for today and in some case also to the need of two processors.

Anyway the overall picture is more variegated than before and this will certainly help these kind of initiatives.

The other side of the game are applications and some recent announcements (JavaFX from Sun Microsystems and Silverlight from Microsoft. Post is coming!) make me think that there will be great news in the near future.

Why do I blog this ? I think that the market is ready for new mobile Operating Systems. Things are moving, hopefully fast enought for customers.

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