The 8 mobile OS upstarts that want to topple iOS and Android

Ubuntu, Firefox, Tizen, Sailfish, WebOS, Nokia Series 40, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone want a piece of the pie, but it won't be a cakewalk

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Yet, Windows Phone remains viable for at least a little while longer. The Microsoft and Windows names help, of course, so Windows Phone has steadily moved from no market share to about 6 percent over three years. That's tiny, but the momentum is in the right direction. Although I can't recommend Windows Phone to most people, there may be enough willing to bet on the familiar company to keep it around.

You'd think BlackBerry would have an even better chance, given its once-huge market percentage and the rabidness of some of its former aficionados. But even though BlackBerry 10 is a better mobile OS than Windows Phone -- for both consumers and enterprises -- initial sales are disappointing. My theory is that the BlackBerry name has become an embarrassment, so people are staying far away. Case in point: One of my colleagues has a BlackBerry 5 OS-based Bold, the BlackBerry standard-bearer just a few years ago. When BlackBerry executives saw he had one, they were embarrassed and urged him to get a newer model -- yes, BlackBerry executives! By contrast, an iPhone 4 or Galaxy S II owner would feel no embarrassment, nor would Apple or Samsung execs seeing then still in use, especially since cellphone contracts mean you have to keep a phone for several years.

The truly rabid BlackBerry aficionados want a phone with a physical keyboard, and the Q10 model meant for them won't be out for a few months. Right now, there's nothing for them to buy.

Still, if any platform deserves to be No. 3, it's BlackBerry 10. I suspect neither BlackBerry nor Windows Phone will rise to a meaningful No. 3, nor will Tizen, Firefox OS, or Ubuntu Touch. One or more may succeed in a smaller arena, however, and that'd be good.

Now for something completely different: WebOS's new raison d'être
The story of WebOS is a tragic one. The second "iPhone killer" (after Android) fell flat after Palm's release of the first WebOS-powered Pre in 2008. The device was solid but not enough so when compared to the iPhone of that era. Palm had bets its future on the Pre and WebOS, but ran out of resources after that initial release. WebOS languished for more than a year, until HP bought it, then came out a year later with a truly terrible WebOS tablet, the TouchPad -- so bad it was withdrawn from the market in mere weeks. HP canceled WebOS soon after.

Last week, HP sold the remains of WebOS to LG Electronics -- the company that makes TVs, Blu-ray players, refrigerators, and even Android and Windows Phone smartphones. LG's intent is to use WebOS as the embedded OS for its Internet-connected TVs, and perhaps for other "smart" appliances such as fridges.

What a come-down for WebOS, though it's nice that some good may come of its checkered history. My only real question is why LG didn't go with Android, which is also designed for use in embedded systems and is an OS familiar to LG. That may suggest Android isn't well suited to such use or LG wants to be different than Samsung and the other electronics makers looking to use Android. Whatever the reason, WebOS lives on, but in a very different body.

This article, "The 8 mobile OS upstarts that want to topple iOS and Android," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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