The Tizen project unveiled Wednesday to develop a new, open-source mobile platform based on Linux could gain traction with overseas wireless carriers who fear becoming dependent on platforms tied to American companies.
The goal of the new Tizen project undertaken by Intel, the Linux Foundation and the Limo Foundation is to deliver a viable mobile-platform alternative to Apple's iOS and Google's Android, which dominate the global smartphone and tablet markets.
Wireless carriers in Europe and Asia have been saying privately they believe it is unhealthy for them to depend nearly exclusively on just two mobile platforms -- or even three, including Microsoft's new Windows Phone refresh, said IDC Research Manager Francisco Jeronimo. This gives Tizen a potential growth opportunity overseas "because otherwise the U.S. will rule the entire phone industry," he said.
"With Android, iOS and even Windows Phone becoming the biggest platforms, European operators will be totally dependent on American companies," Jeronimo said in an email Thursday. "That's what they are afraid of."
According to Jeronimo, Android device makers are wary of a rising tide of patent-infringement lawsuits launched against Android. And they also are wary of Google's long-term intentions with respect to its acquisition of Motorola Mobility earlier this year.
"The recent acquisition of Motorola by Google changed the game [by] alienating most of the major Android players," Jeronimo said. "Phone makers don't see Google exclusively as a partner anymore, but [also] as a competitor."
A Long-Term Strategy
At first blush, Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7.5, also known as Mango, would seem to provide handset vendors and wireless carriers with an alternative to iOS and Android. "But it is not enough to compete with Android and Google, as it is still a closed platform," Jeronimo said.
The initial release of Tizen and its first SDK is expected to reach developers in the first quarter of 2012, which would enable the first devices to potentially reach the market as soon as the middle of next year. However, it is too soon to know whether the new open-source platform would be widely adopted by consumers.
"Tizen is seen as a long-term strategy," Jeronimo said. "Whether or not it will succeed -- that's a different story."
Among other things, Tizen project developers will need to build "an appealing user experience that seduces consumers to buy Tizen handsets instead of the popular iPhone or Android-enabled devices," Jeronimo said. Widespread industry support also would be required for Tizen to grab market share at the expense of the current mobile OS leaders.
In Need of a Robust Ecosystem
Jeronimo believes Tizen would be embraced by overseas carriers such as Telefonica, Orange and Vodafone in Europe, SK Telecom in South Korea, and NTT DOCOMO in Japan. Moreover, other industry players such as Samsung, Huawei, NEC and Access would likely follow suit, he said.
Even then, however, Tizen would need to launch on "a wide range of devices at different price points subsidized by operators, so consumers are attracted by better value for money compared to other handsets," Jeronimo said.
Additionally, Tizen's long-term viability would hinge on the extent to which its open-source Linux foundation attracts support within the global developer community. In absence of a robust ecosystem featuring an abundance of applications and services, Jeronimo believes, Tizen cannot hope to compete against the Apple's iTunes App Store, Android Market or even Windows Phone Marketplace.
"For any other platform to succeed, it needs a strong developer community to consistently develop new apps," Jeronimo said. "But they will only do so if the volumes shipped are big enough to attract them."