If someone were to ask you “What’s your favorite operating system?” how would you answer? Mac? Windows? iOS? Android? Linux? Those are the ones that might get the quickest responses because those operating systems are the most commonly used, but represent just an iceberg tip of the number of operating systems in use today.
An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware and software resources and provides common services for computer programs. All computer programs, excluding firmware, require an operating system to function.
There is more to an OS than that, of course, and more operating systems than I can count, but the basic numbers for personal computers go something like this:
- Windows (83%)
- Mac (10%)
- Linux (2%)
- Everything else
What of mobile operating systems? Again, numbers are basic:
- Android OS (84%)
- Apple’s iOS (14%)
- Everything else
Android OS is the most popular operating system in use today, then Apple’s iOS, followed by Microsoft’s Windows, and then dozens of others of lesser renown, but even that perch on top is a bit misleading because Android is based on Linux.
Regardless, there are plenty and they do mostly the same thing. Make a computing device run. Do a Google search of ‘Firefox OS’ and you’re likely to be treated with an Ad from Mozilla– the Firefox browser company– for the Firefox browser, but not the OS. A bit farther down the page is a link to Firefox OS, and the developer preview of the operating system that Mozilla just dumped while laying off a few dozen employees.
Firefox OS originally started life as Mozilla’s attempt at a smartphone platform. The ambition was to create a free and open source platform that used Web technology to build applications, suitable for low-cost phones in emerging markets.
That didn’t work out so well, partly because Android OS is already open source and freely available to low-cost phone manufacturers in emerging markets.
Another one bites the dust.
Why would a company want to build their own operating system? It’s time consuming. It’s difficult. It’s expensive. In the mobile world, two dominate– Android with about 1.7-billion users, and Apple’s iOS with over 1-billion users. Carving out a niche in a market dominated by a free operating system and a proprietary operating system isn’t easy.
So, what is Samsung trying to do with Tizen, the free and open source operating system put together by a long list of electronics manufacturers? It’s called hedging your bets. Let me use the smartphone industry as an example that works much like the personal computer industry.
In PCs, Windows dominates, but Apple’s Mac is the most prosperous, thanks to a focus on premium products (where the profits are) and easy differentiation with macOS. Meanwhile, Windows PC manufacturers slug it out and the only way they can differentiate Windows on their machines from a competitor’s machines is hardware and prices. Guess which direction they go?
In smartphones, Android OS dominates, but Apple’s iPhone and iPad are the most prosperous, thanks to a focus on premium products (where the profits are) and easy differentiation with iOS. Meanwhile, Android smartphone makers slug it out and the only way they can differentiate Android OS on their devices from a competitor’s devices is hardware and prices. Guess which direction they choose?
So, Samsung and others want an operating system that can be differentiated from Android and iOS.
How’s that working out?
Tizen is just another operating system with limited market penetration and usage, so it poses more hope for device makers than it does danger for Android or iOS. Mozilla was wise to discontinue developer of Firefox OS to refocus resources elsewhere. Nobody wants to ride a dead horse, let alone beat it.
How many operating systems do we need? Fewer than we have, but more than the market currently bears.