Putting an end to all speculations and rumours, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the new Graph Search feature rather than a Facebook phone or its own mobile OS at the Facebook event yesterday. It isn’t clear whether the Facebook OS/phone is slated for a future event or won’t be coming at all. While it’s still doubtful whether Facebook’s OS will stand a chance in the market, there are several others who are prepping to jump on the bandwagon with all their openness and hoping for an Android-like future.
The open source Android platform is one of the leading mobile platforms today, and following in the footsteps are a handful of free and open projects. Most of these companies have been successful in the tech industry in their respective fields but are now trying to break into the mobile space, which is unarguably dominated by Apple and Google. While they all deserve a fair chance, the question is: whether anyone of these has the potential to be the next big thing?
Canonical is trying to bring the Linux-based desktop OS onto mobile phones with minimum changes. Basically, it is trying to bring a seamless desktop-like experience to the mobile space. We got a glimpse of what the folks at Ubuntu are trying to build at the CES this year – a completely new mobile OS with button-less, gesture-based user interface. Swipe the screen from the edge and the UI effortlessly shows up app controls, notifications and lets users switch between apps. This is also known as Edge Magic. It will run native QT, OpenGL/GLES and HTML5 apps. And since it runs on the same codebase as the desktop version of Ubuntu, developers can easily create new and port existing apps to the phone's OS. At CES, we saw Ubuntu being run perfectly on Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Ubuntu’s ‘Unity’ interface offers a convenient, spacious layout and could be of great benefit for smartphone users if infused properly. Unlike Apple or Microsoft’s mobile OSes, the navigation across all platforms will be similar, using Unity – be it smartphones, tablets, TVs or laptops. But you won't be getting your hands on Ubuntu smartphones anytime soon. Reportedly, Ubuntu phones will be available in early 2014 through its OEM partners. However, Ubuntu will make available the code for developers some time in February – which will work on the Galaxy Nexus – for all tech freaks who want to get a taste of this new OS.
The complete new, button-less Ubuntu UI
This is yet another Linux-based operating system rising to face the current two-horsed mobile race. It has been steadily gaining momentum, especially after Samsung confirmed to launch several Tizen-based devices. This open source OS offers seamless experience across various devices including tablets, smartphones and smart TVs. Tizen isn’t something new, it was earlier named LiMo or the Linux platform for mobile. The highlight of the OS is said to be its ability to allow network carriers to offer services in an easier and lucrative manner. And this is belived to be the reason why most mobile carriers are accepting the Tizen platform. Apparently, network carriers like NTT Docomo (in Japan), Vodafone (in the UK) and France Telecom will be supporting Tizen. The MarketWatch report points out that if Tizen takes off well, then it is likely to affect Apple’s sales, as Google’s revenue percentage from Android is quite small. However, it may adversely affect RIM’s BlackBerry and WP8.
In 2011, Mozilla Foundation kickstarted the ‘Boot to Gecko’ project, which aimed at “building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web”. Now it’s been over one and a half years and Mozilla announced at CES 2013 that the Firefox OS will be ready in 2-3 weeks. Mozilla has created the OS for low-end, cheaper devices. It cannot be used for high-end smartphones as the OS is restricted to single-core 800MHz processor – at least for now, until it gets some significant updates. With an interface similar to Android, it shows a homescreen and an app drawer. However, the major factor that differentiates them from each other is the fact that Firefox OS runs on HTML5, which means most of its apps could simply be websites. There is an app store planned for the OS as well. As Mozilla claims that the OS is ready and will be out soon, phones running this OS will be seen later this year from its partners like ZTE.
Highly anticipated Firefox OS
Jolla’s Sailfish is an open source Linux-based mobile operating system that would serve well beyond smartphones. Based on MeeGo and Mer (revival of the core of the MeeGo project) OSes and Nemo framework, Sailfish has a multi-tasking UI to compete with giants like Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. It supports both ARM and x86 devices and the apps are still being worked upon. According to Engadget, who got a hands-on with Jolla’s Sailfish, the homescreen shows a row of four customisable icons and the empty space above has been reserved for a grid of cards that represent each running app. Sailfish lets users customise the lock and homescreen and also the UI elements like font size, colour etc.
Cover Image Credit: Harshad Gujare
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