India fronting yet another Android alternative; Will it survive?

When shopping for your next smartphone, it is extremely likely that you will end up with one either running Android or iOS. These two operating systems have totally dominated the past ten years of the mobile phone industry that it is becoming increasingly hard for any interested party to join in and offer some form of alternative to the end users. This, however, might be changing in the near future.

Going by a report published by the Indian Express, the government of India is planning to come up with a policy that will facilitate an ecosystem for the industry to create an indigenous operating system as an alternative to Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.

“There is no third one. Therefore, in a lot of ways, there is tremendous interest in MeitY and in the Government of India to even create a new handset operating system. We are talking to people. We are looking at a policy for that,” says the Union Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

The Indian minister revealed that they are looking within the start-up and academic ecosystems to develop the operating system. “If there is some real capability then we will be very much interested in developing that area because that will create an alternative to iOS and Android which then an Indian brand can grow,” Chandrasekhar said. “Important is to have clear goals. Once we have clear goals and what it is that we have to achieve, then all the policies and actions will be consistent with it”

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Several companies have already tried to rival Android and iOS, to varying success. Samsung developed Tizen OS, which they launched on a few of their smartphones, but it did not gain momentum with most users preferring to use what they are already familiar with. Following the reluctance of Samsung’s users to try out the new OS, the South Korean company shelved their plans, shifting the Tizen OS to be used on their smart TVs.

Similarly, Microsoft tried their hand on a mobile OS, having seen tremendous success with Windows on PCs. The Windows Phone platform had the financial backing of a real powerhouse, but unfortunately later died out mainly because of lack of developer support, despite it being a solid platform in terms of security and overall user experience.

Whether this new OS will see success depends on whether Indian firms will take up the challenge of creating a new ecosystem and going head-on against behemoths in Apple and Google.

Taking on Apple might be easier as they mostly target higher-income users with their products, while India is largely composed of buyers in the lower end bracket. Tackling Google on the other hand will definitely be more tricky as they have devices running their operating system across all price brackets.

Once they have come up with the new OS, the next step will be convincing manufacturers to adopt it and ditch the more mature Android and iOS that will still have more features and better integration with other systems like banking services among others.

There is also another hindrance, as some OEMs who use Android serve ads to their users to increase their profit margins. The new OS overseen by the Indian government might have problems with this method of subjecting users to ads on devices that they have paid a full price for.

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Naftaly is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for tech, video games and pop culture. When he is not writing articles for AndroidKenya, he is probably rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the hundredth time. Email at Twitter @KarisNaftaly

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