Sales of Huawei's Android Handsets Are Rocketing
As Huawei’s Android sales have risen, so have bad Photoshops

Electronics company Huawei has stuck the boot into the Linux-based Tizen OS, claiming that it has ‘no chance’ of becoming a success.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal (pay wall), Richard Yu, CEO of the Consumer BG at the company says Tizen has “no chance to be successful”.

The remarks are surprising given Huawei’s prior vocal support for the Samsung-driven OS. Yu was even responsible for creating the team charged with investigating bringing Tizen to Huawei hardware (a team now axed, he says).

‘It’s easy to design a new OS, but the problem is building the ecosystem around it.’

But it’s not just Samsung’s will-it, won’t-it operating systems being given the cold shoulder. Yu says the company’s W series of Windows Phone handsets lost the company money for the last two years running! Acknowledging the difficulty it has faced in trying to persuade consumers to switch to Microsoft’s maligned mobile effort, it won’t be making any more in the near future.

‘Little Space for Competitors’

IDC figures released last month underline just how much of a struggle mobile OSes — even those with multi-million dollar marketing budgets — face against Android and iOS. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are now said to account for more than 96% of global smartphone sales — a figure so colossal that the analysts at IDC conclude there’s “little space for competitors”. 

With shareholders to please, the futility of chasing nascent niches is hard, especially given the huge growth the company has seen in sales of its Android devices. This realisation will likely have played a part in Yu’s confirmation that its plans for a custom OS of its own are now dead.

“It’s easy to design a new OS, but the problem is building the ecosystem around it,” he explains.

Amidst the haemorrhaging sales of Blackberry, Windows Phone and Nokia’s Asha devices it’s not all bleak news for upstart Android alternatives.

‘Firefox OS is expected to see shipments grow by a factor of six this year’

Mozilla’s (often overlooked) open-source, open-standards-driven Firefox OS is expected to see its shipments grow six times this year — a figure no doubt bolstered by an ever-expanding pantheon of hardware partners and the imminent launch of a $25 smartphone!

But Huawei’s dismissal of Android alternatives has a more niggling implication: what does it mean for Ubuntu?

Hope for Ubuntu?

Let’s go back to Tizen. Like many we have a strange relationship with this cusp-riding OS. On the one hand it’s a Linux-based mobile operating system and that’s awesome. On the other hand…well, it’s Tizen. It’s more of an insurance policy that Samsung never expects to cash in than a viable mobile OS people are taking seriously.

Ubuntu for Devices certainly faces a similar uphill struggle, but is free from the weight of expectation that sat on Tizen’s shoulders.

For example, the first pair of Ubuntu Phones going on sale online later this fall are aimed squarely at enthusiasts as a kind of guerrilla marketing campaign.

This is smart. Those first batch of handsets will have a feature set and app catalog more inline with Firefox OS than Android or iOS. By explicitly avoiding the hands of regular users, whose judgement of the OS might be clouded by a lack of Instagram, WhatsApp and SnapChat, gives it a breathing space the likes of Tizen just wouldn’t have.

By putting itself into the paws of those who enjoy the bleeding edge and using workarounds; those who are hack-happy and keen to build, use and develop third-party alternatives to fill in the gaps, Ubuntu for Devices has a fighting chance.

The OS is also positioned as the one best suited to meet the “needs” of telecom networks. The OS has been built with their guidance (remember the CAG?) to allow operator-specific features, branding, apps, themes and content services to ship preloaded on handsets.

No one should expect a leapfrogging of Blackberry, much less Windows Phone, in user share any time soon. But where most of us see ‘challenge’ Ubuntu sees ‘opportunity’, something Tizen has continually failed to seize. 

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