The mythical 'open' OS
We already know that there are two dominant mobile operating systems out there. But the current situation doesn’t really allow anyone to experiment, not without going through the interests and lenses of the two dominant players — Apple and Google.
That’s why we need a third mobile OS to break this duopoly and move us towards a more open environment for anyone to innovate, without permission. Especially as mobile phones have begun to democratize and broaden the reach of technology around the world… why shouldn’t we then also democratize the mobile operating system?
From an a16z.com post
One of the interesting items and recurring themes that is seen regularly is the idea of another OS to break out of the iOS/Android ecosystem. Windows Phone by all accounts is a very good mobile experience but doesn't seem to be getting traction for various reasons, apathy and comfort from mainstream consumers not helped by being the last to market and thus a complete lack of the major apps (and major companies pulling theirs too which is a definite bad sign).
The article above goes into the idea of breaking the duopoly and introducing a 3rd OS that is more open which will in turn give more choice to customers. The concept of the 3rd OS as described in the article largely describes what on mobile was Symbian (and, as referenced before, I highly recommend Smartphone and Beyond detailing Symbian and Nokia's rise and decline), and on the desktop computer it describes Linux. Both were the ideal, open-to-all (although Symbian did have a certification programme as well, it was much more lax than what is now standard on iOS) systems but while the former took traction mainly as it was very good but as was evident when iOS appeared, just the best of a bad bunch. For Linux, it's still around and used by a niche popularity but it's openness has not helped it in becoming the widespread player many would like. Realistically, while the idea of openness is great and would potentially give more opportunities for developers of apps, for the day-to-day user of phones, no reason is seen for this and a lack of technical knowledge (when things go wrong, of which they will if apps are allowed wholesale access to all areas of the operating system - even Android with it's open-but-closed system is well-known for issues with certain apps, etc.).
This could be the ability to customize boot animations and default apps, to the ability to customize the app experience itself. While some users may not care to customize their mobile experience at all, the point is that users at least have a choice.
The end of the article acknowledges the main challenge, that most people would not be interested in modifying their apps or boot animations. At one point in time, I think many people in the technical world would have subscribed to the idea of tinkering with the various aspects of the computer. But what has become very evident by the rise of the smartphone is that people just want something that works and that it does its job well (for all the arguments over how Apple is doing so well, it would appear that it largely comes down to this). In the words of the designer at Apple in a recently released interview:
Things are “developed to be different, not better.”
So, my challenge is to all working in technology industries, what are you doing to make your product better?