Until not so long ago, picking up a smart mobile device could have been termed as child’s play, no longer so. The market has exploded not only with tons of choices for the devices, but also with different platforms or mobile operating systems.
What Is A Mobile Operating System
A mobile operating system is an operating system for mobile devices. The mobile OS is the software platform, which runs system programs as well as provides the basis to other applications to run on mobile devices such as Smartphone, Tablets, PDAs, or other mobile devices.
Which Are The Mobile Operating Systems Available In Market
The user is spoiled for choice or maybe even confused, when it comes to picking up the right smart mobile platform. The most common mobile operating systems are:
Android from Google Inc
Android, Linux-derived mobile OS, is developed by Open Handset Alliance and backed by Google. It is a free and open source platform. The Android Open Source Project (ASOP), led by Google, maintains and develops Android.
The Android code is available as open source, under the Apache License. A large community of developers write applications for the Android platform. These applications are available through third-party stores such as Amazon App store or online stores such as Google’s Android Market.
The latest offering available to mobile devices is Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich.
BlackBerry OS from Research In Motion (RIM)
BlackBerry OS is a closed source proprietary mobile OS developed by RIM. The BlackBerry smartphones operate on this platform. The BlackBerry platform is perhaps most known for supporting corporate email through Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP). MIDP in tandem with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server allows synchronization with email servers like Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise.
Developers can write applications using the available BlackBerry API classes, which can then be marketed through BlackBerry’s App World.
The latest offering from RIM is expected to be on the QNX platform with the first QNX smartphones being available in early 2012.
iOS from Apple Inc
iOS (formerly known as iPhone OS) is Apple Inc.’s mobile OS. While it was originally developed for the iPhone, other Apple devices such as such as iPod Touch, iPad, and Apple TV are now supported as well. iOS, derived from Mac OS X, is a closed source proprietary platform on top of the open-source Darwin core OS (a Unix-like OS).
Developers can create applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch using the iOS SDK development environment Xcode. However, to load an application to devices or Apple’s App Store, it is necessary to join the iPhone Developer Program by paying a fee of $99.00 (as of January 7, 2012) per application.
With the latest offering iOS 5, Apple has introduced the iCloud service and the Notification Center.
Symbian is a mobile OS and computing platform, derived from Psion’s EPOC, running exclusively on ARM processors. It was originally developed by Symbian Ltd. (acquired by Nokia). After Nokia announced its decision to migrate away from Symbian to Windows Phone 7, Symbian based software development and services transferred to Accenture.
Developers can build applications for Symbian-based devices using Qt, Symbian C++, Python, Java ME, and several other languages. Symbian applications are packaged in SIS files, which may be installed via PC connect, Bluetooth, or a memory card. All applications need to be Symbian Signed.
The latest version Symbian^3, released in Q4 2010, was used in the Nokia N8.
Windows Phone from Microsoft
Windows Phone is a mobile OS developed by Microsoft and succeeds the Windows Mobile platform. The most impressive feature about this mobile OS is its UI, which is inspired by Microsoft’s “Metro Design Language”. The biggest success for Windows Phone is in its win to collaborate with Nokia as the primary mobile OS for their phones/mobile devices.
Development of third party applications and games for Windows Phone is restricted to being on XNA or a specific version of Silverlight available for WP7. One must be a registered Windows Phone or Xbox Live developer to post an application to the App Hub web applications. For the application to appear on Windows Phone Marketplace, an approval from Microsoft is needed.
The latest offering, Windows Phone 7.5, offers a mobile version of Internet Explorer 9 along with several other features.
Other Mobile Operating Systems
webOS from HP is the proprietary mobile OS, based on the Linux kernel, developed by Palm.
HP has discontinued webOS hardware but shall continue to support and update webOS software, with the promise of it becoming an open-source system in the future.
bada from Samsung Electronics is a mobile OS developed by Samsung Electronics. The first device to run “bada” was the ‘Wave’. To Samsung “bada” is not just a Smartphone OS, but also a platform with kernel configurable architecture. It looks to be the future of Samsung phones, though at present the major chunk is on Android.
Popularity Of Various Mobile Operating Systems
In terms of popularity of mobile OS, iOS continues to be at the top of the charts, followed by Android on a climbing streak. Symbian and BlackBerry, though not extinct, show a downward trend. Refer to the data from the Analytics firm Net Applications below.
In conclusion, it is not an easy choice deciding on a Smartphone or the mobile OS. The factors that one can weigh their options on are – Looks/Feel, Usability, Features, Performance, and Applications. Other deciding factors could be Quality of Applications, Ease of developing Applications. Refer to this article on techtree.com for comparison of Smartphone OS.