Since as far back as 2014, most tech experts have been saying that the war of the smartphone operating systems is over – and that Android and iOS won. Between them, these systems have well over 90% of the smartphone market covered.
The race for third place continued apace for a while, and it seems that Windows has secured the spot – albeit from quite a lot further behind. So is this the way things are going to stay now? Are we destined for a world dominated by Android and iOS, at least for the foreseeable future?
A Post-Android World
Google has already started looking for alternatives to Android. The fragmentation of services and lack of uniform updates, as well as the issues with licensing other software products on the Android platform, are enough to make any company want to wipe the slate clean and start again, with an in-house system.
The most promising future prospect for Google right now is Project Fuchsia, which could be rolled out in as little as the next 5 years. It would give Google much more control over the devices that ran its operating system, and it would mean that updates were finally rolled out to all users at the same time.
Taking away the developers’ ability to run the operating system as they wish to, however, takes something quite essential away from the ideology of Google. It is far more in keeping with the ethos of Apple or Microsoft, to have everything pre-loaded and remotely controlled. It could make for smoother integration, but is the individualisation that Android allows a price that we should be willing to pay?
Changing the Situation
As things stand at the moment, the latest handsets are too important to people to sacrifice their immediate benefits. We need them for leisure activities and, very importantly, to stay on top of work tasks. Beyond that, for many users, the latest Samsung, Sony or Apple smartphone or tablet is a serious status symbol.
It was possible, for a time, to buy handsets that ran on other systems. But these were often run on lower-end models, and consumers were not prepared to sacrifice the immediate comfort of higher-end devices when they could get them for similar amounts of money thanks to network provider contracts. In terms of altering the current landscape, so completely dominated by iOS and Android, we may have missed the opportunity to vote with our feet, as it were, and purchase handsets running competing operating systems.
Some Viable Alternatives Remain
There are still some options to make the operating system market a little freer, if we are so willing. Windows is still in with a chance, and Samsung’s in-house Tizen operating system offers a unified experience across devices. Alibaba’s YunOS is actually bigger than iOS in Asia, and has ambitions to be the third-biggest operating system internationally, while the official network of the Russian government is now Sunfish by the Finnish company Jolla.
It certainly does seem desirable in the long run that we have more options available for operating systems that we can choose and customise more according to our own needs. Is it possible that we are beginning to buck the duopoly of Android and iOS?
Things Could Go Either Way
Android and iOS are so established that any new entry, whether developed and created by Google itself in the case of Project Fuchsia, or developed by specific hardware manufacturers such as Samsung’s Tizen, is going to have a hard time making any kind of impression on the market. It remains to be seen whether or not the public imagination and loyalty can be captured and moved in a different direction. But one thing’s for sure, you can bet your bottom dollar that any OS that doesn’t run casino games smoothly won’t stick around for long!