Is it too late for new platforms in the U.S.?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: August 10, 2013

Earlier this year there was a lot of talk of new open-sourced platforms that we were supposed to see come to fruition this year. Canonical's Ubuntu for Android, Mozilla's FireFox OS, Samsung's Tizen and Jolla's Sailfish OS were four of the more well-known ones. But since earlier this year there has been very little talk about any of these platforms, and although I initially had high hopes of seeing at least one of them succeed by this time, I wonder now if there is any reason for hope given the current state of our own four main platforms that we primarily use in the U.S. now.

FireFox OS has already been released, but their phones and OS were primarily made for people and countries that needed a smartphone on a budget. FireFox OS won't even have a handset show up in the United States until 2014 sometime, presumably. Aside from the late arrival, FireFox OS is also severely lacking in apps, like any new platform is expected to be. Ubuntu seemed promising, but so far it's only been released for a few models of phones, and you have to install the OS yourself, which a lot of people aren't interested in doing. Even the Ubuntu Edge phone seems to be in jeopardy as it only has eleven days to earn $24 million, which doesn't seem all that likely to happen. As for Tizen, which still has yet to release, I can't see much hope for it here. Even as a platform from the all-powerful Samsung I can't see it making it very far in the U.S. - people are still pleased with how well Samsung is doing on Android. And then we have Sailfish. I have to admit, Jolla's Sailfish looks nice, but even then you have to consider the extremely steep uphill climb to get to where other platforms already are.

I'm really starting to think that it's too late for new platforms to emerge in the United States at all, despite what little hopes I had months ago when I first heard of this surge in open-sourced platforms. The more I think about it, the more unrealistic it seems that anybody with a small start-up is going to get anywhere in this extremely competitive industry, even if we think we could use something new.

We're already struggling to get people on board with the two bottom competitors in our market, Windows Phone and BlackBerry, mostly because of the lack of certain key applications and support. It's understandable, though, considering that many demographics are unsatisfied with the app selection from both platforms. The smartphone market is already oversaturated with Android and iPhones, controlling more than 90% of the smartphone market combined - that is one big piece of pie. Meanwhile, Windows Phone and BlackBerry are duking it out trying to see who can make it into the most degrading third place pedestal I could ever imagine. I can only imagine how hard it would be for a new platform to actually take off here given the way our market is at the moment.

Apple and the iPhone were the first to start this whole revolution, so they gained quite a few loyal fans straight from the get-go. As for Android, over the years they've steadily gained a plethora of fans simply from the fact that they offer a huge variety of devices. Low-end, mid-range, high-end, big, small, thin, physical keyboard, dual-screens... you name it. Android has had arguably the most versatile handsets on the market, and has constantly been improving in one way or another. In turn, you have two of the most stable operating systems that have already taken the market by storm. Most people are happy with what they have, and most people are unwilling to start over from square one all over again. It's just one of those things where you had to have been there from the start in order to get anywhere today. I mean sure, you can catch some of the stragglers that are unhappy with every platform, but it's going to take a lot of time and effort to make any new platform succeed in the U.S. at this point.

I could be wrong, but I predict that any new platform that tries to emerge in the smartphone market in the U.S. is going to die a very quick and painless death. What do you think, readers? Do you think that new platforms could gain a solid following in the U.S.? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Image via Sam Mobile