One of the big selling points of the Android ecosystem is that the operating system is open source. That means handset manufacturers can modify it to work on their handsets and tablets, or enterprising individuals can customize it to work on their own hardware.
This major selling point can also be a weakness, however: manufacturers can actually modify it to the point where the version on their handset in no way resembles the version of Android found on a competitor’s handset, even if they both slap the same Android version number into the specs.
For those looking for an open source alternative, there are some challengers on the way.
Earlier this year, Canonical made waves when it announced that it was bringing the Linux-based Ubuntu Phone to market. Last week their Kickstarter push to crowd-fund a new handset to be known as the Ubuntu Edge failed, falling well short of the $32 million funding goal.
Still, the fact that people (and companies) ponied up nearly $13 million for a Ubuntu phone speaks volumes. And despite the Edge’s failure to launch, it won’t prevent the development of the Ubuntu Touch operating system from going ahead. That means that you may be able to install it on a handset of your choice when it finally rolls out to the public in 2014. (Adventurous sorts can install a pre-release version on Google Nexus products right now.)
If you can’t wait until next year, there may be a chance that another Linux-based smartphone alternative may be coming at the end of this year.
That alternative is Tizen (www.tizen.org). That’s their logo up top. Tizen has been getting love from both Samsung and Intel, who have been working with the Linux Foundation to push it forward. (In fact, there was recently an app challenge offering prizes as high as $200,000 for app development on the Tizen platform, in an effort to get content onto the platform.)
Samsung Electronics is widely expected to announce new handsets designed to run Tizen later this year. That’s an interesting play for the company that’s dominating the world of Android.
But since Tizen is designed to work across a number of devices, like TVs and in-car entertainment systems (in addition to phones and tablets), it makes a lot more sense, since Samsung plays in multiple consumer electronics categories. And since Tizen devices are technically capable of running Android apps using an application compatibility layer, perhaps it’s not such a huge risk anyhow.
While it’s doubtful that Android has anything to worry about it in the immediate future, it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out, especially with the largest Android purveyor actually having some skin in the game.