What's the real story behind Samsung replacing Android with Tizen?

While there are many new mobile OSes in the works and some are already appearing on smartphones - Firefox and Sailfish - for instance, what's significant is that Samsung, which accounts for a mammoth 63 percent of all Android shipments-smartphones and tablets--is pushing Tizen.


Even as Android celebrated its numero uno position in the mobile and tablet OS stakes with current global market share of 81 percent, according to IDC, came the news of Samsung starting to put its muscle behind Tizen, a new OS.

While there are many new mobile OSes in the works and some are already appearing on smartphones - Firefox and Sailfish - for instance, what's significant is that Samsung, which accounts for a mammoth 63 percent of all Android shipments-smartphones and tablets--is pushing Tizen.

Screengrab from Tizen

Screengrab from Tizen

What gives? Is Samsung risking the position it has gained thanks to Android software in a bid to control the whole mobile ecosystem (both hardware and software), or is it a far bigger prize that Samsung is after? In this two part series, we take an in-depth look at Tizen, where Samsung fits in, how it may impact Android and whether Samsung is looking at a future that goes far beyond smartphones.

What is Tizen?

The Linux community conceptualized Tizen in 2012 as an ongoing project within the Linux Foundation, under the Tizen Association. Tizen is an open source, standards based software platform aimed towards various mobile operators and technology manufacturers. Tizen differentiates itself from other mobile operating system through its immense scalability and developer friendly features. And to give you a clue about Tizen's real purpose, the utility of the software extends far beyond mobile devices, developed for tablets, netbooks, automobile systems and televisions as well.

The operating system is an effective merger between two Linux based platforms - LiMO (Samsung and Vodafone) and MeeGo (a mix of Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin), with parts of Samsung's defunct Bada OS as well.

Considered an extremely flexible environment for application development in HTML5, Tizen's touted to provide apps cross-platform accessibility. In plain English, that means the Tizen development framework allows developers to write once and use anywhere (with minimal extra effort), great for a scenario where though Android and iOS are the biggies in the mobile OS space, there's BlackBerry 10, Windows Phone and now many others like Firefox and Sailfish too.

The latest Tizen 3.0 release boasts of Linux-HTML5-based programming that claims the ability to sustain a 3D user interface and an extremely scalable performance threshold, capable of working with just 256kb of RAM. It is also designed to be compatible with Android and iOS.

Who runs Tizen?

The Technical Steering Committee managing the Tizen Association includes a collection of 10 industry partners as its board members, many of them industry heavyweights: Fujitsu, Huawei, Intel, KT Corp, LG, NTT Docomo, Orange, Samsung, SK Telecom and Vodafone.

The interest in the OS recently surged as the first Asian developer's conference took place in Seoul and Samsung made new announcements regarding its investments in Tizen.

Samsung and Tizen

Samsung as a leader of the Steering Committee has made significant investments in the Tizen development process. At the Asian developers meet Samsung announced its partnership with Intel, Fujitsu, Huawei, Here (Nokia mapping service), Konami, McAfee, Panasonic, Sharp, The Weather Channel, smaller start-ups such as Appbackr and 26 other companies to standardize the future hardware platform across numerous device categories while it finds innovative apps for Tizen.

In order to accelerate the app development goal Samsung also set a late 2014 deadline for a product launch and eagerly announced funding for developers to populate an as-of-yet barren applications market place.

This move by Samsung isn't surprising when you consider that it is the only large mobile device manufacturer that doesn't have autonomy over its own software.

The mobile operating systems' market is shared between the four companies--Apple with iOS, Google with Android, Microsoft with Windows phone and BlackBerry, with Google and taking lion's share and iOS second. Microsoft and BlackBerry are small players. And 63 percent of all Android mobile devices in the market are manufactured by Samsung according to Localytics.

Companies like Apple and Microsoft are also experienced players in the hardware-software convergence, with Apple's hardware accompanied by iOS 7 is making waves in the market while Microsoft's acquisition in Nokia has shown a 156 percent growthin consumer adoption since third quarter of 2012.

Google with its acquisition of Motorola has also started making a move towards an independent stake in the handset market with its Moto X and Moto G series of phones. Samsung remains the only hardware giant without its own software and is woefully dependent on Google's Android OS.

Is Samsung Trying To Dump Google?

If Samsung is to control its destiny, especially now that Google's Motorola acquisition is spewing new smartphones, it needs to build a complete ecosystem. That's the only way Samsung can venture beyond its current role as a hardware player and compete with Apple and Microsoft with a unified device solution. This is critically important in business use, because CIOs prefer unified solutions that are tightly integrated and far more secure.

Today, Samsung plays host to Google's Play store on its devices and loses influence over the intrinsic lifestyle of its users. If Samsung gets Tizen right, it will directly be able to tap in to new revenue streams through the sales and delivery of applications, media, messaging and other products similar to Google's Play store without having to miss out on profits as it currently does.

It remains to be seen if Tizen's supposed low cost and high benchmark quality has what it takes to persuade consumers to shift away from Google. And even as Samsung attempts to fill the Tizen landscape with new and innovative apps it is very likely that the mobile device space is just one of the many new device verticals that is about to become the battleground for the next all-out tech war between giants.

Watch out for Part 2, where we look at the larger Tizen game and how it fits into the Internet of Things revolution, possibly the most important technology trend in coming years.


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