Samsung plans to launch smartphones running the Tizen open source operating system by the end of the second quarter, a senior executive from the South Korean company told Reuters.
Yoon Han-kil, senior vice president of Samsung’s product strategy team, said the first Tizen-based smartphone to be launched in this timeframe will be a high-end device, with the second aimed at the mid-market, where it can drive volume growth. Launch dates for the second device were less clear.
Until now, Tizen has only been used on three commercially-available devices: Samsung’s Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smart watches (launched at Mobile World Congress in February), along with a digital camera from the electronics giant.
Samsung is one of the major backers of Tizen, which has been touted as a potential competitor to Android and which could allow Samsung to become less reliant on the Google technology in its smartphone business.
Despite the lack of device launches, the OS picked up a number of new backers in February, with the Tizen Association naming 15 new supporters, including Sprint, its parent SoftBank Mobile, and ZTE.
NTT Docomo, Orange and Samsung previously promised to commercialise Tizen handsets in the second half of 2013, but this never came to fruition. This plan was shelved because of “poor market conditions”, according to Yoon.
Samsung has adjusted its strategy so that Tizen-based smartphones will be released in “a few countries where we can do well”, the executive said, adding that Tizen will need to account for up to 15 per cent of Samsung’s smartphone shipments to be considered a success.
In January, Samsung signed a cross-licensing deal with Google, suggesting the South Korean company was becoming more committed to Android, reducing the likelihood of any Tizen smartphones materialising.
Yoon told Reuters that Android still needs to be Samsung’s “main business” while Tizen and Windows Phone will address markets that Android is less suited to.
The switch from Android to Tizen for Samsung’s wearables, and plans to make the Gear 2 devices compatible with all Android-based smartphones, appears to put it in more direct competition with Google’s increased efforts to push Android for wearable devices.
However, Yoon said Samsung also plans to launch an Android-based smart watch at some point in 2014.