Smartphone OS makers eye developing markets

Emerging markets present large, untapped market of non-smartphone users, which two mobile operating system makers say smaller companies can look to carve niche in.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

The mobile industry can expect to see more than two smartphone operating systems (OSes) meeting the global market's needs, even if Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms are generating most of the buzz right now. There is room for smaller competitors which can ride on developing markets' shift toward advanced mobile handsets to become a sustainable business too, two OS makers say.

Caroline Kempf, spokesperson for Jolla, pointed out that the smartphone industry is showing such fast pace in terms of changes, with companies coming and going and different device categories emerging and disappearing, there are no mature markets worldwide currently.

Most of the smartphone markets continue to evolve as consumer preferences change and business models adapting to meet their needs, Kempf added. So, using an emerging market such as China as an example, its large population would easily sustain Jolla in terms of potential investments and research & development opportunities.

These resources, in turn, would allow the Finnish startup to grow and "launch a serious contestant" in the existing smartphone OS arena, she added.

Jolla announced earlier in July it would continue Nokia's work on the Linux-based MeeGo OS, which was dumped by the latter after it decided to use Microsoft's Windows Phone OS on its smartphones. It also inked a sales and distribution deal with Chinese retail chain D.Phone Group, with Jolla chairman Antti Saarnio saying the agreement is a major step toward the company's journey to become a significant player in the global smartphone market.

Widening smartphone adoption reach
Another new smartphone OS developer, Mozilla Foundation, also indicated its intentions to target emerging markets, with Brazil expected to be the first market to receive smartphones powered by its Firefox OS.

Brendan Eich, CTO of Mozilla Foundation, told ZDNet Asia that the idea behind creating Firefox OS is to be able to deliver compelling smartphone experiences at attainable prices. A greater number of people, specifically those in developing markets, would then be able to adopt smartphone devices, he said, adding it will continue to "keep an eye" on developed markets as well.

"It's important to emphasize that this initiative is not about bringing even cheaper smartphones to market; it's about delivering a better performance on devices, especially those that are at the low price point end of the devices market," Eich stated.

He added the operating system is based on many new open standards pioneered by Mozilla and it intends to integrate HTML 5 to more of a handset's underlying functions. This will help the organization, together with its telco partners such as Vivo, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, and Telenor, to bring the smartphones to emerging markets currently dominated by feature phones, the CTO noted.

"iOS and Android devices do not currently cater for this market and we don't believe they will in the future either," he added.

Research firm IDC predicted in March that emerging markets will drive growth in global smartphone shipments, with China surpassing United States to take the lead in 2012 and India and Brazil entering the top 5 list by 2016. These markets have their sheer size, strong demand, and healthy device replacement rate to thank for their rising prominence, it noted.

Editorial standards