Considering the vision needed to design a smartphone operating system, the development resources to turn it into a usable product, and the hardware partners backing it up with compatible handsets, it’s a little surprising that we have as many OS choices as we do. While for every Android success story there’s a Mobilinux that didn’t make the cut, you can’t win if you don’t play. Chinese state-owned mobile network China Unicom may be the next contender to throw an operating system in the ring, as it announced its plans to develop what it’s calling Wophone OS.
Wophone will be Linux-based, like Android, MeeGo, and so many other mobile operating systems. That framework gives China Unicom a solid starting point, but still leaves plenty of room for it to craft an OS dissimilar to currently-available options. The whole point, unsurprisingly, is to have a system tailored for Chinese users, with all the localization that entails.
Even before a finished OS is ready, plenty of hardware manufacturers are signing on, including Samsung, Motorola, and HTC. With around 800 million mobile users, the Chinese market is just too large to ignore, even when developing for an untested OS. There’s no sign yet of when the first devices will be available; when they do show up, look for both smartphones as well as tablets running Wophone.