Samsung plans to release “new, competitive Tizen devices within this year and will keep expanding the lineup depending on market conditions,” the handset number one told Bloomberg.
According to reports which surfaced over the Christmas holiday period, the device is likely to be sold in Japan by market leader NTT Docomo. Both companies are represented on the board of the Tizen Association, alongside other supporters which include Panasonic, NEC and Huawei.
While the South Korean company has been widely seen as the driving force behind the platform, which is intended to blend the MeeGo platform created by Intel and Nokia with the LiMo Foundation’s own Linux-based technology, it has yet to commit to actual device launches.
While Samsung and Apple largely have the smartphone market tied-up at the moment – each company has a market share which dwarfs rivals such as HTC, Nokia and RIM – unlike Apple, Samsung does not control its own software destiny.
The lion’s share of Samsung’s smartphone shipments are powered by Google’s Android platform, with Microsoft’s Windows Phone also in the mix. In the mass market, it also has its own bada platform, although its commitment to this appears to have waned.
While the company has its own app and content propositions, these are also second-tier when compared with Google Play, meaning for Samsung device owners the default content partner of choice is Google.
With it still unclear how Google will develop the Motorola Mobility handset business it now owns, and competition in the Android market already fierce – HTC has significant pedigree, Sony Mobile is showing potential, and Huawei and ZTE are keeping prices low – it seems logical that Samsung will want to hedge its bets.
The challenge will be in creating a content and apps ecosystem for Tizen that is at least as appealing as for other device platforms – otherwise customers will stick with the familiar Android marketplace. And as RIM and Nokia (with Microsoft) will undoubtedly testify, building this is both costly and time consuming, and is no guarantee of success – even if the lack of content is an ingredient for failure.
Tizen does have some things going for it. On its website, the Tizen Association is promoting HTML5 and related web technologies as the way for developers to write apps targeting devices powered by the platform, which will mean they can also be ported easily to other device platforms – thus creating a much larger target market than if apps need to be specifically developed for Tizen.
In addition, as smartphone market leader, Samsung is in a position to provide developers with a large customer base, especially if it can create an HTML5-based app portfolio that can support both Android and Tizen (and other platforms).
And the Tizen Association also said its platform can be used across “multiple device categories, such as smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, netbooks, and in-vehicle infotainment devices”. With Samsung already offering products in many of these categories – indeed the company is something of a smart TV leader – Tizen and HTML5 may enable it to create a cross-platform apps proposition, delivering a much larger audience and creating a bigger potential content and apps ecosystem.
But attracting support for Tizen will not be easy. With Android and iOS the go-to platforms for developers across smartphones and tablets, Tizen will be in a battle with Microsoft’s more established Windows Phone, RIM’s anticipated BlackBerry 10, the Mozilla-backed Firefox OS, plus numerous other fledgling device platforms including Sailfish and Canonical’s newly-mobilised Ubuntu.
However successful the smartphone giant is in building a content and apps ecosystem for Tizen, it will still face the fact that with Gmail, Google Maps, search, and other services, Google will not be easy to displace. As Apple discovered with its own mapping efforts, beating it at its own game is costly, time consuming, and difficult, especially if your core strengths are somewhere else – such as consumer electronics products.
It should also be remembered that Samsung has a long history of supporting multiple smartphone platforms, and its decision to offer a device powered by a particular OS is no guarantee of long-term support.
The South Korean company has previously offered devices powered by platforms including Android, bada, LiMo Platform, Linux, Palm OS, Symbian OS, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone.