Samsung pinning hopes on Tizen OS

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Samsung pinning hopes on Tizen OS

Samsung Electronics is expected to release its first Tizen-based smartphone in February, its first big step to reduce its dependence on Google and its Android operating system.

An alliance of companies working on the development of the new open-source operating system said yesterday it will hold a Tizen event during the 2014 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Feb. 23.

Samsung and Intel are spearheading the Tizen Association, which involves 36 companies in a common cause to develop an alternative mobile operating system to Google’s Android.

In a press invitation to the Barcelona event, the alliance said it will mark “the major milestones that the Tizen project has hit since last year’s event.”

Samsung, which postponed an initial plan to unveil a Tizen phone in October, will reportedly show the phone at the 2014 MWC event. The tech giant first joined the Tizen cause at the 2013 MWC in Barcelona.

The Suwon-based company yesterday wouldn’t confirm or deny the report.

“It is a very significant move for Samsung,” said John Soh, an analyst tracking the company at Shinhan Investment.

“Currently, it is depending almost 100 percent on Google and a Tizen phone would be a milestone in its efforts to change that.”

Samsung, which seized global leadership in smartphone sales since 2011, has made several steps this year in the software spheres, which analysts believe is necessary as Google attempts to get into the hardware business with its own phones.

According to Strategy Analytics, Android-based phones accounted for 81.3 percent of the global smartphone market in the third quarter, followed by Apple’s iOS at 13.4 percent.

Google, which bought Motorola in August 2011, has rolled out its own Nexus smartphone series and is rumored to be planning to go into the manufacturing of TVs.

Tizen is Samsung’s answer.Samsung hosted the Tizen Developer Conference, the first of its kind in Asia, last month in Seoul, where it expressed confidence in the operating system. After a failure with Bada, an operating system developed in-house that fizzled, Samsung has worked with other major companies to develop Tizen. Apart from Samsung and Intel, eight companies - including KT, SK Telecom, NTT DoCoMo of Japan and China’s Huawei - are participating in the alliance and are represented on its board of directors.

Tizen, known to be a cross-product platform, could also provide a solution to Samsung’s thinning portfolio of cash cow products. A success of Tizen-based home appliances such as refrigerators and TVs could reduce the company’s dependence on mobile phones. Kim Hyun-suk, head of Samsung Electronics’ Visual Display Business, said last month that the company will introduce a Tizen TV after the Tizen phone.

The company officially denies the Tizen project is aimed at decoupling from Google, which it has worked with since 2010. “Our cooperation with Google is solid,” said an official of Samsung Electronics yesterday. “We are trying various platforms.”

Google has also sought to go beyond the partnership with Samsung and increased cooperation with other device manufacturers, including Samsung’s home rival LG Electronics.

LG Electronics said on Wednesday that it developed the world’s first all-in-one desktop computer powered by the Google Chrome operating system.

Samsung’s experiment with Tizen could be difficult, as is shown by a struggle involving another alliance standing up to Google.

The Firefox OS alliance, led by Mozilla and joined by such companies as ZTE and Alcatel, is also offering an ecosystem that rivals iOS and Android. But none of Firefox-based phones released so far are having much success.

Recently LG released a Fire Fox-based smartphone in Brazil, home to Telefonica, a member of the Firefox OS alliance, but according to analysts, the sales of the phone is not impressive so far.


BY Moon Gwang-Lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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