The Tizen mobile operating system is gaining industry supporters, and the world's largest mobile device maker, Samsung, appears to be increasing its bets on the OS as a hedge against too much reliance on Google's Android. Tizen is also being promoted for hardware beyond mobile devices, including smart cars, refrigerators and TVs.
The Linux-based Tizen was created in a development effort led by Samsung, which was later joined by Intel. Board members of the Tizen Association, which came into being in January of last year, include NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Vodafone, Sharp, Panasonic and Sprint, in addition to Samsung and Intel. The Tizen open-source project is also supported by the Linux Foundation.
A Tizen-focused developers conference, the first one in Asia, is ending Tuesday in Seoul, South Korea. Samsung announced at the conference that it has formed about three dozen partnerships for content development on the Tizen platform, with such partners as The Weather Channel, McAfee and eBay.
First Developers' Conference
At the two-day conference, Samsung also announced that it would award $4 million to developers who create the best Tizen apps. The first Tizen device is expected to be released in the coming months from Samsung, which some Samsung watchers have predicted will most likely be in the spring of next year.
Samsung makes about a third of all smartphones, according to IDC, and more than 60 percent of all Android devices. But Google is the long-term beneficiary from those sales, since users are employing its search and various other Google apps on the Android platform. By some estimates, about 90 percent of smartphone users are regular users of either Google or Apple services, shutting Samsung out of a continuing, post-purchase relationship with the buyers of its phones.
Additionally, Google bought Motorola Mobility in 2011, and Microsoft said in September it was buying Nokia, so Samsung is one of the only hardware makers without its own software and services ecosystem.
'Betting on Every Horse'
In addition to shoring up its competitive position in terms of an ecosystem, Samsung is also looking to expand the playing field. Most OSes have made some mention of their intent to look beyond smartphones and tablets, including some efforts and announcements by Android, Windows and especially new entries like Firefox and Ubuntu OSes.
But powerhouses Samsung and Intel appear to have made a non-phone installed base a key strategic aim for Tizen, and they have said that Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover are now working to bring Tizen to motor vehicles. Additionally, Tizen is targeting low-end smartphones, whose sale in emerging markets is the driver for smartphone global growth.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, jokingly told us that, since Samsung was making zillions of dollars selling Android-based devices, "of course they're thinking about throwing all of that away."
But even if Samsung does not abandon Android, Greengart did point out that the Korean company "has a long history of betting on every horse," including involvement with or licensing of such OSes as Bada, Palm and Symbian. Greengart said he "fully expected" Samsung to "test the waters" with Tizen devices and even Tizen in appliances or other areas, but it remains to be seen if the OS achieves any sort of traction.