New mobile OS worlds, maybe

10 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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Mobile moves fast, but not to Linux yet.

“The world changes on a dime, especially in the mobile industry,” said Ed Elkin, marketing director for advanced communications solutions at Alcatel-Lucent. “The next thing that happens is HTML 5.”

He was speaking at the “Smart phone trends: current and future” panel at CES this afternoon. Moderated by Mashable editor Lance Ulanoff, it also featured representatives from T-Mobile, AT&T and HTC.

In theory, applications based on HTML 5 could run on any mobile operating system with little or no modification. The standard doesn't perform to that level yet, but there's the likelihood that it eventually will.

Until the change comes, the smart phone operating system universe is Android and iOS, with Blackberry and Windows 8 barely hanging on. Panel members did not see an opening for a new entrant, such as Linux.

“It's difficult to build life on a new planet,” said Mike Woodruff, president of HTC's American operations. But, he added, “if it goes to an HTML 5 world, that changes everything.”

Other trends highlighted today included bigger smart phone screen sizes for the same price, thinner phones and longer battery life. Younger users are driving change, preferring video chats to ordinary voice conversations and expecting to interact with their phones without touching them. Increasingly, phones will respond to spoken commands and gestures.

And not just their phones. Processors and other hardware continue to rapidly improve, and we'll soon hit the point where the only difference between a phone, tablet, television or personal computer is the form factor. Capabilities and underlying technology will be effectively the same, according to panel members.

At that point, Mark Shuttleworth's vision of creating an operating system – in his case, Ubuntu Linux – that runs on any device can become a reality. With or without HTML 5.