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Alex Crowe

DevOps Engineer, London

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The Wonderful Evolving Mobile Landscape

For many the battle for the mobile OS is a done deal. Android won and Apple has slipped into 2nd place, Not too dissimilar the battle of the early 90’s when the emerging Microsoft rose to dominate desktop computing. Android has now passed 900 million device activations, almost double iOS. So surely it’s a done deal, cue Android hegemony?

However more now than ever alternatives are springing up. I can imagine thoughts springing to your mind like “how can compete?”, “They wont have any apps!” or even simply “Why bother?”. I’ve certainly wondered the same things, but there is nagging part of my brain saying this time is different.

Not Your Fathers OS War

A key difference between now and the last time OS’s were vying for dominance is, of course you’ve guess it the Internet. This great leveller, doesn’t care if your on Windows, OSX, Linux, Android, iOS. Its open protocols and standards make it an equal opportunities platform. So this begs the question, if the web continues its march to become the platform for delivering applications, content and connected experiences does the OS even matter in the long run?

Google has taken this idea the furthest with ChromeOS, however even the most ardent fan would have a hard time convincing people it’s ready to replace your desktop. But if you, like me subscribe to the view that we are at the end of the beginning and not the beginning of the end of the changes a truly connected world will bring these weakness will slowly fade away. So are we looking at a future where operating systems are reduced to merely glorified browsers?

Maybe, the pull towards a world driven by the web is undeniable. But I expect the OS to matter for a little longer. So this trend is the first key benefit I see for alternative platforms.

People, All the People

Mobile technology is an amazing global success story. There are 5 billion mobile phones in use globally of which some 1 billion are smart phones, that’s a lot of dumb phones that’ll be turning smart over the next few years.

Mozilla for one has explicitly stated it hopes to providing an open source OS built around the web to cater for this emerging demand. But a broader point can be made that the shear numbers involved will create the opportunity for the small to survive, and even flourish.

Ubiquitous Black Slabs

Despite the strongest wishes of Apple, hardware continues to become more commoditised. With each passing year, phones get harder, better, faster, stronger

As these devices get cheaper and smart phones become simply phones new opportunities will open up in how we use these portable computers. Within a year or two large number of people will be carrying about enough power in their pocket to run the vast majority of the applications. Ubuntu is certainly buying into the converged future where the distinction between desktop, laptop, tablet, phone and everything in between starts to disappear.

Exciting Times

It’s incredible to think that only 6 years ago Apple released the first iPhone and Android was racing to catch up. This ushered in an new era of what was possible on a mobile device, opening up new markets and possibilities. I certainly hope the next 6 bring increased choice and the unexpected!

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