Love them or hate them, but one thing is fact; Samsung is a powerhouse in both the Android and electronics world, and whenever they speak or whatever they do, most will listen or follow…except when it comes to the operating system that Samsung developed – Tizen. The Tizen operating system is an offshoot of another earlier Samsung OS attempt, Bada, and like Android, Tizen has its roots in Linux. Samsung has devoted many resources – time, employees, research, and money – into Tizen’s development, with approximately 60-percent of its 67,000 engineers devoted to software innovation, with plans to hire another 800 a year. Even with all of this time and effort in its quest to challenge Android and iOS, its efforts are starting to crumble. Many of their biggest supporters, such as DoCoMo, Japan’s biggest telecommunications operator, seem to be abandoning the project. They had a close collaboration with Tizen and were ready to launch their first Tizen smartphone in mid-January, but decided instead to shelve their launch and stated that there was a lack of demand for the third OS in their home market. DoCoMo’s President, Kaoru Kato, stated two weeks later, “Tizen continues to be extremely important. We will watch global market trends to decide on a launch.” DoCoMo was just the latest setback of the much-delayed Tizen platform.
U.S. Sprint joined the Tizen Association in May 2012, welcoming the competition and broader choices for consumers, but then they left the group last year to focus “on more immediate product launches.” Spain’s Telefonica also left the association and instead offered the first commercially available smartphone running another alternative OS, Mozilla’s Firefox, stating that it allowed them to make better inroads to their low-end Latin American market. France’s Orange is yet another partner that was prepared to release a Tizen smartphone alongside DoCoMo that pulled out because Tizen “is not as mature as we may have expected at this point.”
Samsung choose the name “Tizen,” which means “tying together,” because their long-term goal is not to use it simply as an alternative mobile OS, but to run and “tie together” all of Samsung’s many products their customers can own. Your refrigerator, washer, dryer, and television sets, using one OS to run all things Samsung – allowing the user to adjust their refrigerator’s temperature, start a load of laundry, or record a favorite TV show from your smartphone. It may sound far-fetched today, but Samsung is looking down the road to the future where we will have the technology to do those things and much more.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) was able to use a prototype Tizen smartphone and found it to have a very Android-like feel to it, probably because of its ties to Linux. However, they were reminded that Tizen’s main appeal is its ability to allow more customization than Android of the interface, which would sit well with manufacturers of other devices besides those producing smartphones.
The lack of support continues with application development, or lack thereof. We can use Symbian, BlackBerry, WebOS, and Windows Phone platforms as an example of what can happen when there is no App support. Even with their clout, $50 billion in cash reserves, and their software pitches in October in San Francisco and in November in Seoul at self-promoting Developer’s Conferences to third-party app developers has not helped. Samsung and their Tizen partner, Intel, offer to dole out $4 million in prizes to app developers, has stirred little interest in the platform. They even offered a developer of one of Android’s most popular apps, downloaded 50 million times, $100,000 to adapt its app for Tizen, and they turned them down cold. They just did not believe that Samsung’s Tizen would provide enough users to make it worth their time. Tizen Association Chairman Roy Sugimura said in an interview, “Software developers just care about the number of mobile phones on the market. Such an attitude makes it very difficult for Tizen to get approval because right now there are no users.” Smaller developers have been a little more cooperative, such as Mr. Escobar from Atlanta. He said that Samsung approached him in 2012 to develop his Maestro music-streaming service, which he had already done for Android and iOS, for the unknown Tizen. While he was at first reluctant, Samsung offered to pay for all development costs and then some. He was impressed with Samsung’s commitment and the fact that they sell hundreds of millions of phones and he said, “At least in our case, there’s far more to gain than there is to lose.”
The real story here though, has to be the Samsung-Google relationship. Strangely, Samsung’s difficulties with Tizen have come in the middle of several recent moves between the two giants that actually seem to have strengthened their relationship. Samsung and Google have always publicly put on a “united front” fa§ade, however, behind the scenes there seems to be a lot of bickering. Rajeev Chand, managing director at Rutberg & Co., a San Francisco-based investment bank with a focus on the mobile industry said, “Samsung can’t have a future where Google owns the experience and Samsung becomes the dumb screen company.” However, just last week Samsung and Google announced that they had signed a wide-ranging cross-licensing deal -covering existing patents and those filed over the next ten years. Three days later, Google sold off its Motorola Mobility holding to Lenovo for $2.9 billion, thus eliminating Google as a direct competitor to Samsung. One has to wonder if this “reconnection” with Google was spurred on by Samsung’s struggles with Tizen. A Samsung person reiterated what they have said in the past, “With Google we have a close relationship and we will continue to be an important strategic partner and collaborate together, (and that) Samsung will continue to support multiple operating systems.”
For now, it seems that even the mighty Samsung may have created an OS that nobody wants – hopefully they will continue to play nice with Google and the OS, Android, that helped bring them to the forefront of mobile devices. If Samsung would devote those Tizen resources to a TouchWiz redesign, they might find many more Android users would buy their smartphones and tablets. It will be an interesting year for us to watch Samsung as they bring out their new devices and applications to see if they have less Samsung and more Android…very interesting indeed. Please let us know on our Google+ Page what you think about Tizen – good or bad for Android, for Samsung, and if you would consider buying a Samsung device with Tizen.