Linux: A Surprisingly Popular Operating System

android-linux.pngBack in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I tinkered around with Linux open source operating system (OS) because I wanted an UNIX based system and I had an extra desktop computer. Getting the darn thing to install was a labour of love. There’s always something missing (like a driver for a sound card) to prevent me from making a perfect installation. It definitely requires geek skills and it’s not intuitive to use.


There’s a perception that Linux is not industrial strength when it is compared to the likes of Sun UNIX, IBM UNIX, Windows NT and etc. Few people outside of the Linux community know how good it is until the creation of Apache web server. During the dot-com craze, everyone wanted a website and many web hosting companies turned to Linux and Apache combination because they are free and they can run on a common Intel’s x86 based machine. In addition, Apache web server allows multiple websites to host on a single server. This ability lowers the number of machines a web hosting company has to buy and manage. During this period, it showed that it’s up to the task. Another big vote of confidence for Linux was when major database vendors started porting their enterprise database systems to it.

User Experience

The next break for Linux was when Google decided to build Android OS (the OS was initially developed by Android Inc. that was supported and then bought by Google) on the Linux kernel. Android gave Linux a wonderful user interface. Android OS was released in 2007 and the first computing device HTC Dream smartphone was released in the Fall of 2008. Since then, there are numerous versions of Android OS using various Linux versions. With each new version, the user experience kept on improving.

Where Is Linux Now?

Since 2008, 7 out of 10 largest smartphone makers use Android OS in their mobile computing devices. As of 2012, Q4, 50 million new Android devices are sold per month. It’s projected that Android OS install base will surpass Windows’ 1.25 billion install devices by Q3 of 2013. This is lightning fast given that it took about 30 years of Windows to established their install base. Above source : TomiAhonen Consulting

The desktop market is flat or shrinking because among other reasons, not everyone need all the power and features. It’s unlikely Windows’ install base will grow at the same pace as Android. A personal experience, I got a tablet for my mom instead of a laptop because it’s easier to use, more robust and does what she wanted – do Facebook, take photos and read emails.

Mobile computing continues to growing rapidly in every corner of the world and Linux is playing a big part in it. The introduction of Tizen (another open source OS using Linux) will further strengthen its role in shaping the landscape of computing. There are many other Linux based mobile OSes popping up as well. It’s an exciting time for Linux and open source.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, who would have thought that Linux would play a big role in our computing lives now (and beyond). Think about it, there will be over a billion Linux base computing devices by the end of 2013. It’s amazing.




Forward Looking: Tizen the 3rd Mobile Phone Operating System (OS)

China has over 1.3 billion people. If Pacific Asia and South East Asia are included, the market for smartphone is immense. The rise of individual income in this region and the dropping prices have made these devices more affordable. As well, with over the top (OTT) services like WhatsApp, WeChat, QQ and the likes that allow ease of communication have only fuel more demand for these devices.

Here are snippets of facts and trends on the region’s mobile market.

  • 78% increase in sales year-over-year in South East Asia according GfK research.
  • Smartphone prices are dropping below $100 USD per unit.
  • Two of the top three smartphone manufacturers are from this region (1st. Samsung, 2nd Apple and 3rd Huawei)
  • Android OS overtook BlackBerry’s OS in Indonesia
  • iPhone is 6th place in China’s mobile market  (1st to 6th - Samsung, Lenovo, Coolpad, ZTE Corp., Huawei Technologies Co. and Apple). Yes, Lenovo makes smartphones and they are pretty good. Source – DailyTech

What happens in this area in the next 5 years will have an impact on the global mobile industry. What’s important is what OS will these Asian manufacturers push in the next five years?

It’s clear today that Android OS (3 out 4 devices shipped in 3Q12 are Android OS powered – IDC) has won the smartphone OS market and iOS is second.

But what about the 3rd OS? Microsoft wants to be the 3rd OS but I believe it’s a tough road for them given the recent sales performance of Windows 8 in the mobile space. I think only targeting the premium market is not helpful to expand its market share. In China, Microsoft (Nokia), is just not a big deal. For status, Chinese people buy iPhone. For anything else, it’s Android. Microsoft does not have the status of Apple to command premium pricing. People use Windows on their crappy PC so it’s very hard for them to associate Windows as a premium OS. It’s hard for me too.

Currently, BlackBerry OS is in 3rd place but its position is tenuous because newer users are opting for other mobile devices. It’s not hip. It’s a boring business device. What’s brewing is Tizen OS. Huawei, Samsung and Intel are championing this open source OS. Samsung makes a lot of mobile phones and combine with Huawei, they make about 40% (~32% Samsung, ~8% Huawei) of smartphone devices in the world. Both of these manufactures have a big presence in China, Pacific Asia and South East Asia. They have the distribution channels to push their products.

These companies will start making and pushing devices with Tizen OS soon — starting 2013, Samsung will start producing devices based on this OS. With Samsung’s S Cloud push to support their mobile devices, Tizen OS will have a strong backend support. Being the 3rd mobile OS is achievable within 5 years.