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Discussion Starter #1
The title should by definition exclude the top three players and therefore the "childish flame wars"...

Just like Firefox and Chrome brought back the browser wars when there was almost a consensus that Internet Explorer won, I believe the smartphone OS wars ain't over despite Android having 80%+ of the world market...

The biggest player here is Tizen backed by Samsung and Intel. It is often seen as a hedge against legal Android challenges (e.g. Oracle Java lawsuit).

Samsung is planning to introduce new Tizen gadgets in a few months time
http://www.phonearena.com/news/Samsung-to-unveil-Tizen-devices-smartphones-at-a-pre-MWC-2014-event-on-February-23_id50511

Sailfish OS - another underdog in the smartphone OS market going back to the Nokia's "bachelor's" days - is anything but dead and started selling their handset to Europeans
http://www.phonearena.com/news/Sailfish-OS-touting-Jolla-phone-now-available-for-order-for-Europeans-from-all-corners_id50524

This game might get interesting...;)
 

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Well, the reason why Firefox and Chrome did well was because Microsoft just stopped trying with IE. Had Microsoft updated their browser with the same level of effort as they do today, I don't think we would have seen the 2nd browser war.

I doubt Google will stop trying with Android, so I'm not holding out much hope for the underdogs. That doesn't mean that noone can challenge Android, they just need to exploit Android's weak spots. In my opinion the main achilles heel of Android (which could be exploited by competitors) is that many Android apps are written in Java, so given the same hardware profile Android would perform worse than a system that is 100% native.

The problem with Tizen is that they're encouraging developers to build HTML/Javascript-based apps, which would often turn out to be slower than Android's Java apps. The Firefox OS has the same problem, but even moreso.

The mobile platforms that got this formula right was Apple with iOS, Windows phone 8 (when they stopped using the CLR and moved to WinRT), and Blackberry 10. And those aren't in your "underdogs" list (although I imagine BB10 should be).
 

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Discussion Starter #3
CyanogenMod - born as a simple (pure) Android mod (and still mostly in this state) is trying to find its own way
http://www.engadget.com/2013/12/19/cyanogen-funding-android-future/
Looks like an Amazon-type fork of Android: same underpinnings (kernel), different GUI...

It would look very much like a "me-too" attempt if it wouldn't be for Andreessen that is bankrolling this "forking".
The Netscape creator knows a thing or two about venture capital having sold Skype to Microsoft for $8.5B...
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Very true.
And they have had some successes despite missing the $30M+ kickstarter goal campaign...
http://www.phonearena.com/ubuntu

I think a pure Linux approach has problems at this stage because of what Linus pointed out. Here is the non-polite version.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/11/torvalds_suggests_poison_and_sabotage_for_arm_soc_designers/

But after the dust of the breakneck development pace settles (I believe we are almost there), they might become a player to watch...

Also, we have to consider both parts of this "underdog" market - hardware and software.
I believe the biggest hope on the hardware side comes from the Lego-type smartphone: put your own together.
http://www.engadget.com/2013/12/07/project-ara-moto-maker/
If Chinese manufacturers get interested in this approach, the smartphone market in 5 years will have nothing in common with today's, I think...
Innovation in software alone is hampered by agreements that have to be struck between for example, Ubuntu and hardware makers.
Word-of-mouth marketing that drove the popularity of Firefox, might work with tablets but not with smartphones OSs...
 

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Well, the reason why Firefox and Chrome did well was because Microsoft just stopped trying with IE. Had Microsoft updated their browser with the same level of effort as they do today, I don't think we would have seen the 2nd browser war.
You may be putting the cart before the horse. Microsoft stopped pushing IE because there was no competition. Once the competition materialized, IE started moving forward.

Without competition, Microsoft had no justification to spend the resources on enhancing IE.

In other words, IE's improvements came as a result of the development of Firefox and Chrome.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
There are quite a few players in the same shoes as Cyanogen, hoping to make it one day. Here are few of the best
http://www.phonearena.com/news/Custom-ROMs-updated-for-Android-4.4-KitKat_id50555

And while talking about underdogs - it hardly gets any "better" than this
http://www.phonearena.com/news/Geeksphone-Revolution-specs-announced-phone-runs-Android-and-Firefox-OS-on-an-Atom-processor_id50577

Just goes to show - again! - that there is a real need to separate the hardware from the software.
Need for the consumer, that is, to offer more choices. Hopefully companies can find a business model making it desirable for them, too...
 

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Discussion Starter #9
CyanogenMod - born as a simple (pure) Android mod (and still mostly in this state) is trying to find its own way.
Looks interesting
http://www.phonearena.com/news/Video-shows-off-features-of-the-upcoming-OPPO-N1-CyanogenMod-edition_id50619

What's even more interesting, they have full Google blessing
http://www.engadget.com/2013/12/20/oppo-n1-cyanogenmod-certified-by-google/

Just goes to show how different the business models are between Google and the rest
http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/25/search-googles-castle-moat/
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Interesting read
http://www.wired.com/business/2013/12/cyanogen-android-mod/

It looks like his (Kondik's) short stint at Samsung could have'd something to do with Tizen
http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/25/4144226/steve-cyanogen-kondik-departs-samsung

But just like Linus never went working for Apple despite a pitch from "His Highness" himself
http://www.theverge.com/2012/3/22/2893581/linus-torvalds-linux-founder-turned-down-steve-jobs-offer
Kondik didn't last in the corporate confines either.

I hope neither regrets the decision made...
 

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Just goes to show - again! - that there is a real need to separate the hardware from the software.
Need for the consumer, that is, to offer more choices.
Could you elaborate on that point? I think hardware and software must be inextricably connected in order to provide the highest degree of value to the user..otherwise there will inevitably be wasted opportunity.

"More choices" can quickly become a burden to consumers if under managed.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I believe the personal computer industry is a good example of an industry providing
the "highest degree of value to the user". Because it is detached from software.
"More choices" can quickly become a burden...
Fewer choices will quickly become communism. And that is worse than a burden...
 

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When you think about what Windows has achieved with device interoperability ("plug and play"), it's pretty amazing. You can plug pretty much anything into a Windows PC and it "just works". Google doesn't even seem to be attempting that with Android.

There may be a opportunity for Microsoft to make a version of Windows Phone that would install on most Android devices by bundling a bunch of drivers with the OS and using some of their plug-and-play magic. Microsoft could deal directly with the device manufacturers and get Windows drivers for the various devices, and keep them up to date. That could certainly help their market share if people find Android slow. Microsoft could advertise "try a fast mobile OS that isn't running Java".
 

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Communism? Either I'm missing the sarcasm or you're trying to invoke some type of irrational McCarthyism paranoia :)

I look at the PC industry and observe the opposite...lower reliability vs embedded systems, significant time required to mitigate interop issues, significant skill needed to maintain the equipment. How many friends/family/coworker's computers do you support? how many desktop support technicians does your company need?

Theres no right or wrong answer, just opinions, but I think the MS model has had an enormous productivity penalty to humankind. In the post-PC era, we simply can't afford to be that lazy with footprint, processor cycles or battery energy.
 

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99semaj said:
but I think the MS model has had an enormous productivity penalty to humankind. In the post-PC era, we simply can't afford to be that lazy with footprint, processor cycles or battery energy.
I don't see any of these things being worse or better than what PCs do (specifically for footprint, processor cycles, battery energy). In fact, I see both mobile and PC platforms employing the same strategy.

For footprint, you just want to have all the devices on hand by the installer. You don't actually write files to the device you don't need, or for hardware that isn't relevant.

For processor cycles, I don't see how that would be affected by what I'm suggesting. The OS code and application code is made for the general case anyway, they go through a OS "stack" and a driver "stack" that abstracts the hardware, which is exactly how desktops do it. There is a cycle cost, true. But apparently all the major players have decided that the cycle cost is worth it. Even on iOS. You don't draw directly to the screen. Classes like CGRect is well abstracted from the hardware - you're using Quartz 2D, and it's very much abstracted from your iPhone GPU hardware. If you were to try and optimize your code to the same level that some game devs do for consoles to do stuff like write directly to memory instead of using the graphics API, I doubt Apple would even approve your app for the App Store.

There were a couple special cases on iOS where devs made a lot of hardware assumptions. Stuff like iPhone screen size. And those are the apps that didn't use the full screen when the iPhone 5 came out. Now both Apple and Google encourage devs to spend the extra CPU cycles on dynamic layout code so that apps "just work" on new displays. Just like how the PC apps work.

For battery energy, well, it's the same discussion as processor cycles. The battery energy is burned because the mobile platforms use the same abstractions that the PC world uses. In fact, it's often the exact same abstractions between iOS and Mac OS X.

So, the suggestion of writing a OS that can dynamically detect attached devices and to get the proper drivers for them has no real down sides that I can see. The PC world has proven that it works. Sure, people may complain about the odd driver bug - but the mobile phone world has the same sort of issues. Witness the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 (2013 model) which have WiFi driver issues, even though they're sold as a pre-configured product.

I think the main reason why the mobile OS makers haven't actually implemented it is because not many people could use it, primarily because such a small percentage of users would actually do it, and partly because the whole software update situation is very screwed up on the mobile side.

For Android devices, carriers and handset makers molest the software and add their junk prior to the device getting into the consumers hands. This is just like what happens on the PC side with bloat-ware being added. It can ruin your experience, and Apple is the only company that I can think of that has never done this on their products. I think the complaints people have about PCs is largely a function of bloatware.
 

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Looking at the hardware underdogs...

The revolutionary stage of the smartphone development is over, I think(*).
Every sensor useful to humans is in it and most of the physical parameters are set.
So, an underdog has essentially two ways to get noticed (within the smartphone market):
offer better specs for the same money or same specs for less money.

The latter is pretty much covered by the Nexus lineup (Google trying to set a ceiling
in price-per-basic-feature for an Android smartphone) and is hard to compete in.
Offering better specs is the only avenue left.

Next two months - CES in January and WMC in February - will show what specs were picked for improvement.
Based on leaks and pre-announcements, two are preferred at this point: screen resolution and CPU/GPU.

QHD (1440x2560) is the next PPI (pixel per inch) battleground
http://www.phonearena.com/news/Smartphones-with-1440x2560-resolution-displays-whos-next_id50745#2-Oppo-Find-7
Along with the usual suspects (Samsung, Sony, LG; the latter being an underdog just 1-2 years ago) there are newcomers.

Octa-core CPUs is the other battleground
http://www.phonearena.com/news/The-flood-of-octa-core-smartphones-has-begun-heres-what-to-expect_id50706
These will most likely debut in Asia first but eventually must show up this side of the pond. I believe this is the most important development.
Just like Intel/AMD CPUs driven by Moor's law eventually overcame the bloat of Windows OS (Win 95, Win ME), so will the smartphone sector.
_______________
(*)The battlefield for the next revolution is probably gonna be wearables. Here is a good version of the reasoning
http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/12/wearable-computers/
 

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The truly revolutionary stage ended in 2007 when the iPhone was introduced, everything since then has been small evolutionary changes or copycat knockoffs. One major item I think you missed w.r.t. spec improvements is 64-bit processing.

As for wearables, perhaps, but it's mostly been a disappointment so far. Gear was an outright flop and Glass created more questions than answers. In-car and television will be the next major battleground.
 

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Discussion Starter #18

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Xiaomi is definitely one to watch. 2014 may well be the year that smartphones become commoditized. I can only imagine the damage to both Sammy and Apple stock prices when that happens

What was unique about the ROMs?
 
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