Stop worrying about Tizen

February 28, 2013
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Tizen Logo genie

There has been so much chatter lately about Tizen, the new operating system from Samsung (among others). It’s a lot like Android, and has support from Samsung. This is a recipe for disaster, right? Samsung… with a new OS?! We’re doomed!

No, we’re not. Tizen has a lot of benefits and cool features, so we are naturally uneasy by it. The inconvenient truth is that it probably won’t make a dent in your Android life. Tizen simply isn’t built for dominance, or really even competition, for most of us.

What is Tizen?

Tizen is, like Android, an open source operating system designed to be used as a base OS for others to build on top of. The goal is for Tizen to be on all manner of devices, in all types of use settings. Tablets, phones, cars, refrigerators… you name it, Tizen wants in on it.

Tizen has a longer history than Android, with other OS’s like Bada being rolled into the Tizen project. A continuation of the LiMo project, Tizen is supported by companies like Samsung wishing to have a unified OS which they had more control over. The new OS is governed by the Tizen Association, a group of 12 companies whose vision is, in part, to provide “an innovative platform offering a high level of flexibility in service selection and deployment.”

An open source platform, a group of partners steering the direction of the OS, and a dream of it being on all kinds of silly devices that don’t need it. Sounds like Android and the Open Handset Alliance. Tizen really is barking up the Android tree, aren’t they?

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The concern about Tizen

Tizen has a lot going for it. Samsung is perhaps the biggest supporter, joined by the likes of Sprint and Intel, among others. There have been two official releases of the OS, and anything open source will get some attention. This is cause for attention, sure, but concern?

Open Source

Anything open source is a logical threat to Android. The Open Handset Alliance is meant to keep partners honest, and it does a good job if it. Even when it comes to an open source platform, some control is necessary. For Tizen, however, partners are in control, calling into question the true “open” nature of it. Tizen may simply be an act of rebellion by manufacturers against the Android-iOS dominance, but is that a wise move?

Samsung

Much of the benefits that are found in Tizen are due to Samsung. The music service? Samsung. Cloud storage? All Samsung, baby. This could mean a number of things, though it definitely suggests a desire on Samsung’s part to break away from Android. Samsung seems keen to strike out on their own. Admirable… but silly, and perhaps dangerous.

Android has given Samsung a large part of the success they enjoy now. Samsung may feel they’ve learned enough from Android to make a go of Tizen, but why? It’s pretty clear that Tizen, even though it has a longer lineage than Android, is copying it pretty bluntly. If there was something new that Tizen could offer, we’d be interested… but a copycat OS? No thanks.

Support

Tizen has a ton of big support, like Intel, Sprint, Panasonic… even the up-and-coming Huawei is on board. That seems like a lot of muscle, and it isn’t even everyone in the picture! Orange has recently pledged support, and NCC DoCoMo is on board. Vodafone, a large European carrier, is also in the mix. With so much support from such big-name companies, it’s almost hard to imagine Tizen failing.

Android-Army

Keep calm and Android on

Man, Tizen has a lot going for it! All kinds of support, cool services, and it’s so much like Android! It seems daunting, but Tizen is nothing to worry about. For a system that has been in the works longer than Android, and isn’t even ready yet, it’s a huge gamble that may not pay off for all involved. Then again, Tizen may have more time than we think.

Asia

With all the coverage given to Tizen, one thing is rarely mentioned: it’s meant for the Asian market. Asia represents a blossoming market for mobile, and Tizen is meant to seize a measure of control overseas. The Asian mobile market is set for a widespread expansion, and Tizen has many companies centered in that market as partners. This market has (historically) been slow to grow, and cautious about current mobile technology. There are many cultural and political obstacles to navigate, so having partners dedicated to the Asian market may be great for Tizen, and their adoption.

Samsung 2.0

Samsung gives Tizen its character, but of what character is Samsung? The company we once loved as the darling of Android is slowly turning their back to us. We wait patiently for new devices like the Galaxy S4, because many of us are ingrained in their TouchWiz system. Slowly, Samsung is pulling away from Android by sneakily adopting a whole new operating system. While TouchWiz is built on top of Android, it is increasingly proprietary in nature.

In many ways, Samsung is designing themselves out of favor with many. The further away from center you get, the more polarizing you become. We can handle skins, even some proprietary functionality, but drifting too far apart is not helping anyone. All this “Samsung only” stuff like S-Beam and Multi-Screen is not doing them any favors in the long run.

The audience

The worldwide market share of mobile operating systems presents the biggest problem. Tizen may be focussed on the Asian market, but with Orange signing on to carry Tizen devices in France, they’ve taken a step toward the world stage. It may seem wise to get your device in as many markets as possible, but is it the right time for Tizen? Tizen may be worth a curious glance, but the fact is that Android still dominates the worldwide market. There is no reason to believe that will change anytime soon, if ever.

The numbers tell a story of the Android juggernaut steamrolling the competition, and that’s an accurate portrayal. The reasonable wiggle room for Tizen to establish any kind of worldwide presence is about 3%, and could go upwards of 6% if other systems fail. That’s a lot of dominoes falling in the correct sequence, and just doesn’t seem likely. It may end up doing well in Asia, but the world is just not going to buy in.

smartphone os world map

Time

Tizen is long in the tooth, and short on time. The time for Tizen was about 4 years ago, when Android was just starting to get itself together. Now, between Android and iOS, the world is pretty well heeled in a two-party system. Tizen has been presented to us, but what we saw at the Mobile World Conference was slow, buggy, and just not ready for prime time. All this time spent developing… what, exactly?

Samsung is not Google

Google has Android, and operates it as a service. Much of what makes Android great are those other sweet, sweet Google services like Maps or the Play Store. Tizen presents a different way for mobile, but definitely not a better one.

Google is massive, and has the bankroll to build amazing services. Buildings chock full of dedicated, smart people making our lives easier and better is a hard thing to challenge, or even duplicate. Samsung has a long way to go to even match that, should they want to go completely solo.

Sure, Google can make their services available to Tizen… but they can also decide against it. We’ve seen that Google is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with rivals on making services available. While Google usually errs on the side of caution, making the service available in one form or another, Tizen may be a different story. Samsung would be wise to tread lightly with Google, unlike they have with others.

google-android

The endgame

Tizen is a novel idea, but poorly implemented. The headlines cause a bit of concern, but digging a little deeper reveals an emptiness to the new OS. It copies Android, but not very well. It has a set of services, mostly via Samsung, but those aren’t great. Tizen has been in development for over two years, but isn’t close to being a finished product.

We’re all concerned about Android being toppled. We shouldn’t be, though. As much muscle as Tizen has, Android has Google backing it up. If you are impressed by a conglomerate of hardware manufacturers and service providers joining forces to take on the world, consider the opposition. Apple does all that Tizen aims to, only better. Google just purchased Motorola, giving them as much control as the rebel Tizen Alliance. Should you worry? Yes… about Key Lime Pie, Google Glass, and the Motorola X. We have too much great stuff going on in the Android universe to concern ourselves with some shooting star passing through.

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