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Samsung Readies Tizen, a New Mobile Competitor to Google Android and Apple iOS

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Samsung,smartphone,mobileWhen Samsung hinted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) a few months ago that there is more to the world of smartphones and tablets than Apple’s iOS, it was also referring to Google’s Android operating system, which runs on Samsung’s most popular devices. Now, just days after introducing its newest marquee Android smartphone—the Galaxy S4—Samsung says it will debut a new handset later this year that uses Tizen, an operating system the company has been developing with chip-maker Intel.

Such a move would both support and contradict statements that Samsung Chief Product Officer Kevin Packingham made during a CES panel discussion in January.

Packingham acknowledged that the “jury’s still out on how the [mobile operating system] war will play out” and suggested that, given Microsoft’s investment in Windows 8, that operating system should not be ruled out as a competitor to iOS or Android. Packingham also said he is often asked why Samsung doesn’t make its own mobile operating system. He responded that app developers must, out of economic necessity, write software for the most popular operating systems—typically iOS and Android—while relegating other platforms to the back burner. Besides, he added, “[We] have a good relationship with Google, so [there’s] no need to.”

Yet Samsung and Intel have spearheaded the development of Tizen—an open-source operating system for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices—since September 2011. And Samsung’s newest phone—as yet unnamed—would be the first on the market to use Tizen, Bloomberg reported last week. The world’s largest mobile phone–maker, Samsung had previously mentioned Tizen as a possible alternative to Android for lower-end devices, “so the news that it will be also mixed with the latest and the greatest of the device specs certainly warrants some attention,” Aapo Markkanen, a senior analyst at ABI Research blogged last week.

Samsung appears to be decoupling itself from Android, despite the device-maker’s reliance on Android’s hundreds of thousands of apps to sell Samsung gadgets. “The Galaxy series couldn’t fly with any other OS, especially given how little Samsung has invested in Windows Phone,” Markkanen blogged. “All signs are pointing to Samsung trying to pull off a ‘Great OS Escape’ within the next year or two.”

Android and iOS may be the dominant mobile operating systems today but the continued growth of smartphones and other wireless gadgets depends on new choices emerging, whether it’s the emergence of Windows 8, a resurgence of BlackBerry’s platform or some other option, said AT&T’s Glenn Lurie, president of emerging enterprises and partnerships, during the same CES panel in which Packingham described Samsung’s relationship with Google. “When the iPhone launched there wasn’t any competition,” but it soon lit a fire under Microsoft, Google and others to get into the market, he added.

Tizen’s emergence may seem like a nonstarter right now, but it does shake up the established order in the smartphone market a bit. Android is open source as well, and most people choose mobile devices based on price, carrier service, the availability of apps and other features. The operating system seems almost incidental. If you want an iPhone, you’re going to get iOS along with it. If you like non-Apple mobile phones, chances are they will come with some version of Android or perhaps Windows. Tizen’s impact will likely first be felt in China, a country whose rift with Google has caused the company to scale back some of Android’s features in that market, making it less appealing to handset-makers like Samsung, according Minyanville Media.

It will likely take five, even 10 years for mobile operating system competition to shake out, said Rajeev Chand, managing director and head of research for equity research firm Rutberg & Co., who moderated the CES panel. Although he didn’t specifically mention Tizen, he did add, “I think there’s a damned good chance that there will a third and fourth [mobile] operating system.”

Galaxy S III image courtesy of Samsung

About the Author: Larry is the associate editor of technology for Scientific American, covering a variety of tech-related topics, including biotech, computers, military tech, nanotech and robots. Follow on Twitter @lggreenemeier.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. greenhome123 11:31 pm 03/20/2013

    I have thought for some time that Samsung makes the best phones. I would not be surprised if Tizen beats Android, iOS, and Microsoft in the war for mobile operating system of the future – but, I would give Android the best odds at the moment.

    Link to this
  2. 2. bashford 5:45 pm 03/21/2013

    Android is _not_ Open Source! Open Source means anyone is allowed to fix those annoying bugs instead of waiting years in some cases for Google to fix them.

    Link to this
  3. 3. rf40928 11:30 am 03/25/2013

    @greehome

    I wouldn’t give Android the best chances by far. Samsung has ‘stolen’ Android right underneath Googles nose ! Tizen looks like Android – feels like Android and within a few years have just as many apps as Android. Do you remember when Google had a high ranking employee on Apple’s board of directors ? That guy was a mole. He helped Google get the good on iOS so they could make Android like iOS. The difference here is Samsung used the Android ecosystem to sell phones while beginning to prepare it’s own ‘Android’ copycat a couple years ago.

    Why do I say Android has less a chance then iOs? iOS will always run on Apple. Tizen will be better then Android because it’ll run not only on tablets, smartphones, but it’s already geared to do something Android won’t. Tizen will also run on all smart devices (bluray, smart tv’s ), and also Netbooks .. and even Cars..

    Tizen will slowly replace Android as the smartphone OS of choice. YES, it’ll take years, but it only took 5 years for Android to become popular and have a huge app store. Will it replace Android because it’s better? It’ll be just as good if not better but that’s not the reason it’ll replace it. It’ll replace it because Samsung will have the Asian market behind it and companies like Nexus, LG, HTC will use Tizen.

    Android’s biggest users are Samsung Phones.. Samsung phones are the best selling Android phones. This means when Samsung eventually switches to all Tizen ( which it doesn’t take a genius to see they will eventually want that ) Android will lose half its customers.. YES HALF ! Samsung sold about 50% of all Android phones all by itself in 2012 ! So you see SIR it won’t take long for Android to lose BIG marketshare – maybe 5 years.

    Apple will still be making iPhones..tablets, and computers that use iOS..

    Samsung figures it has its own iPhone and now it has it’s own Android. People in the USA empower these Asian countries that more or dislike the USA and even feel superior to them. Funny enough Americans buy their devices and empower them and then wonder why all the jobs are over seas !

    Samsung and Droid fans scoffed at the idea Samsung or Google stole any ideas from Apple and now that its blatantly obvious Samsung is stealing ideas from Android ( which they have worked with and know all about more then any Droid user ) it’ll be likely impossible for Google to take this to court. Because Tizen like Android is open source and even though they make TIZEN do EXCACTLY the same thing – it open source. Samsung also holds all the patents on its own phones.

    Google bought Motorola last year out of desperation. They knew this was coming and they need to somehow make Motorola the best selling Android phones. Also they needed Motorola because Motorola owns a long list of patents which Google would lose more lawsuits to other companies like MS, Oracle, Apple who are all sueing Google. Yes Google knows it would lose so it bought all those patents to hopefully convince courts even though they didn’t own those patents 2 years ago – that they do now because they bought Motorola

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  4. 4. rf40928 11:31 am 03/25/2013

    @ bashford

    Yes Android is open source.

    http://source.android.com/

    Link to this
  5. 5. bashford 10:09 pm 03/25/2013

    Others have disagreed: http://www.wired.com/business/2010/10/is-android-open/
    And I haven’t seen a whole lot of community involvement. What do you think the chances of success are if I download 4.1, compile it, and try to upgrade my phone? I’m guessing nil, but I haven’t tried it – yet. If I do all of that and fix one of the many glaring/annoying bugs, what do you think the chances of getting the fix incorporated into the main line? From my experience with Google’s bug reports, etc, I’m guessing that’s also nil.

    I admit I don’t have much direct experience with the Android code, but when I search for bugs in other open-source, I find solutions in the form of patches or upgrades or workarounds. When I search on Android issues, I find still-active threads going back several years of people complaining about the same issues, and no solutions.

    It doesn’t look very “open” to me.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Prairie Dog 9:45 am 03/27/2013

    Both Bashford & rf40928 are correct: Android is both open and closed.

    Just looking at the basics.
    Open: Device manufacturers are free to modify Android to work with their own hardware and to add, remove, or modify features as they see fit. Users are free to fiddle with the code as they please, but typically with little or no success.

    Closed: Only Google releases new versions or updates a version to a ver.1.2, for example, and Google usually reserves each new version for its own Nexus & possibly Motorola devices for at least a few months before releasing it to other device manufacturers, who may or may not pass on a new version or dot-update to device owners. In addition, because each device manufacturer modifies Android for its own devices, there is no compatibility with any other manufacturer’s devices. You depend on your device maker for updates, which may never arrive.

    So as Bashford says, s/he can download a version of Android (Whose? Google’s? HTC’s? Samsung’s?), recompile it, and try to upgrade his phone, but s/he should not expect much success.

    Link to this

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