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Tizen, Is It a Thing?

Tizen, Is It a Thing?
by Paul McLellan on 01-07-2015 at 7:00 am

 I’m not at CES so I’m reporting second hand. But Samsung made some announcements and, since they didn’t make any mobile announcements, people were disappointed. Like Don Dingee, I think that any major mobile announcements will be done in March at Mobile World Congress. Although CES is starting to get a little bit more of a mobile focus, MWC has a laser focus on mobile and everyone involved in the industry will be in Barcelona.

Tizen is an operating system based on Linux largely developed by Samsung. There is actually an open source consortium (which also involves Intel) but it is perceived as the “Samsung Operating System.” The first product using the operating system was a camera over a year ago. At CES Samsung announced that going forward all their smart TVs were going to be running Tizen. That is a big step, the first time they have made a solid commitment to it.

But the big question everyone wants to know the answer to is whether Samsung will switch a lot of their smartphone product line to Tizen. The reason that this is so important is that Samsung is far and away the #1 smartphone supplier (roughly twice as big as Apple but not as profitable per phone). So if they switched a lot (or even all) their phones from Android (which they use today) to Tizen then it would have a big effect not just on Samsung but on the Android ecosystem too. Samsung is the only company with enough market power to create a third ecosystem (along with Android and iOS). Microsoft hopes to do it with WindowsPhone and their Nokia acquisition but with 3% market share they just don’t have the clout to make headway. If you are paying developers to write apps for your platform you are losing (what does Intel call it, contra revenue).

 There are lots of rumors (and no facts) that Samsung was very unhappy that Google both supplied their operating system and competed against them (not very successfully, it has to be admitted) in the hardware business. The big worry was that if things continued then Google might have to give its Motorola subsidiary a better/earlier version of Android than it let Samsung have to try and make that business more successful. So in some sense Tizen might be regarded as an insurance policy.

One version of the story is that Samsung told Google that they would go full steam ahead in mobile with Tizen if Google didn’t sell off its hardware business. But they would back off if they did. They might regret than now that the purchaser turned out to be Lenovo, who have a track record of taking marginal or failing businesses and making them wildly successful. They took over IBM’s notebook business, which was losing money for IBM, and built it up. Recently they acquired IBM’s low-end server business too. Combined with Motorola they are a solid #3 in mobile behind Samsung and Apple, well ahead of Lenovo alone, who already had their own mobile business.

Evidence for this version of events is that Tizen for mobile suddenly slipped a couple of quarters when Google announced the sale of Motorola Mobility. But if Tizen is going to be in every smart TV then the operating system is not going to wither away. The carriers have always wanted a 3rd ecosystem so they can play everyone off against each other, which may or may not be significant. Apparently next month Sammy will release their first Tizen smartphone, but only in India. Whether this is dipping a toe in the water in an “off-Broadway” market remains to be seen.

2015 could be the year of Tizen. Or not. But keep an eye on it.

More articles by Paul McLellan…

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