Samsung's Tizen smartphone OS: Dead or alive?

Samsung's Tizen smartphone OS: Dead or alive?

Summary: Does Tizen have a future, or is it going to be another unlaunched Linux-based mobile operating system?


By 2011, Android had just become the most popular smartphone operating system. At the time it still seemed possible for another mobile operating system to play a major role in the market.

This may be the only glance you'll ever get of a Tizen-powered Samsung Z smartphone.

That was then. This is now. With the news that Samsung will not be releasing its Tizen-powered Samsung Z in the third quarter, we must ask if Tizen will ever launch. 

Back in 2011, Intel and the Linux Foundation started work in Tizen , a Linux-based mobile operating system that would use HTML5 for its applications. Tizen has a very complicated history.

In the beginning, Nokia and Intel were working on separate mobile OSs: Maemo and Moblin. In 2010, the two decided to combine them into MeeGo under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. A little earlier, in 2009, Samsung started work on its mobile Linux operating system: Bada.

By 2011, Intel and the Linux Foundation gave up on MeeGo and started work on Tizen. Samsung, having gone nowhere fast with Bada, decided to merge it with Tizen.

So far, so good, despite the messy development history. As time went on, it became harder and harder to see exactly where Tizen was going, if anywhere. The plan, it seemed, was to develop a third-party alternative to Android, but everything else about Tizen was foggy.

Worse still, Tizen-based smartphones started missing deadlines. The first Tizen-powered device was due out last year. It never showed.

Then, seeing the handwriting on the wall, major Tizen carrier partners, such as NTT Docomo, Japan's largest mobile communications firm, dropped its plans to launch a Tizen phone.

So, here we are in mid-2014 and Samsung itself is now pulling back from releasing a Tizen phone.

Stick a fork in it, Tizen's done.

And, realistically, why should Samsung support a third-party operating system even if it's their own? According to IDC's smartphone market numbers, Samsung is the top smartphone vendor, selling 30.2 percent of all smartphones. All of them run Android. Samsung smartphones outsell Apple's iPhone by more than two to one whether you measure it by market percentage or units sold.

So tell me, why exactly would Samsung want to disrupt the market? I can't think of any reasons. Can you?

Besides, why would Samsung want to spend more money developing what, at best, would be a third-place mobile operating system? Microsoft, since they've given up on Android, has to keep trying to make Windows Phone relevant. Mozilla is betting its life on Firefox OS. And, Canonical is still pursuing its one interface plan for PCs, smartphones, and tablets with Ubuntu.

But Samsung? No, I can't see it. I expect sometime in the next few months there will be a very quiet announcement that Tizen is no longer being developed and that will be that.

Related stories:

Topics: Mobility, Linux, Mobile OS, Open Source, Samsung, Smartphones

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  • how many phone OSes are needed?

    In addition to Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry OS there are also Firefox OS and Sailfish OS. Firefox OS is already on phones being sold, and Sailfish OS should be soon. If Samsung weren't willing to let Tizen phones cannibalize its Android phone sales, it's hard to see that there'd be a lot of very low end market left by this fall.
    • There will never be enough.

      Just like every other area of human endevours, there will always be a another new mobile OS, or so I hope.

      Back in the 1930's, I am sure the people working on jet engine technology were told "That will never work", and "Why bother?", and "What's wrong with propellers?", etc. Examples like this are plentiful in history.

      How can we ever get the next great thing in mobile, if everyone just says "The existing choices are enough, period."?
      • Hey Pogson

        Shouldn't you be encouraging these people to contribute to Android?

        Having multiple distros hasn't helped desktop linux at all. Windows and OSX have the market share and both are still improving. Sure Win8 isn't popular, but you cannot say MS hasn't tried to do things differently.

        What will Tizen do that the others can't? And are you sure the others couldn't easily copy these killer features of Tizen, whatever they may be.
        • You're right.

          We should pass a law: "No more mobile OSes." If a mobile OS hasn't reached 10% market share by now, the government shoudl force those companies to discontinue their efforts on whatever mobile OS they are working on.

          Happy now?
      • Jet engines are not a good choice for an example...

        All the countries (and companies) working on jet engines in the 30s kept it secret. The fact that Wittle got is engine working first was just luck, and good engineering. The German engine was much more successful, and is the design still in use.

        None of them were told "that will never work" except by non-engineers. The military always wanted it.
        • False history

          The Germans copied Whittle's design whilst the British shortsightedly refused to back him.
        • Yep, bad analogy

          Improvements to jet engines or mobile OS's are still possible, but we've reached the point of diminishing returns and so it very difficult for a newcomer to break in to the market as they have no new compelling feature to pull people away from one of the mature OS's.

          Sure, technology can improve to the point where a new killer feature can be added by a newcomer, but that hasn't happened yet.

          Instead, we have a vocal minority blabbing on about how their mobile OS (Firefox, Ubuntu, Tizen) is going to be the best, blah, blah, blah... But none of these zealots can name a single feature or any other reason why someone would switch to their "new and improved" mobile os.
      • But Tizen is indeed not needed

        Hi, just a thought about your comment: comparing Android and Tizen is not exactly the same as comparing propellers to jet engines ;-) While Android and Tizen do pretty much the same things in exactly the same manner, I don't think that you can in any way compare the speed and comfort of jet and propeller engines ;-) I watched the last video where Samsung presented a phone with Tizen installed: it can do exactly the same as Android, absolutely nothing new - well except that you have maybe 5 apps for it instead of hundreds of millions that Android has. So why would anyone in the world use an OS that does exactly the same as Android, but has virtually zero apps? In mobile OS world an evolution is not enough anymore - you need a revolution, to make it matter (like when Apple came with iPhone - that was a revolution that swept away Nokia).
    • Tizen is not designed solely as a phone OS

      According to the Tizen website, in addition to being a mobile device OS (including for netbooks), it is also designed for:

      o wearable devices
      o In-Vehicle Infotainment
      o smart TVs

      Doesn't Samsung currently sell smartwatches which run Tizen? And with regard to IVI, a ZDNet article from late 2012 regarding Tizen:
      "Summary: The Automotive Grade Linux Group is to use Tizen to develop a reference platform that auto manufacturers can use for in-car systems."
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • SailfishOS devices are being sold

      "Firefox OS is already on phones being sold, and Sailfish OS should be soon."

      Jolla has been shipping them since late 2013
  • No surprises

    Tizen could be a niche player, not more. with Samsung profits not growing as they used to, "romantic" adventures are out of the plans.
  • Services and Control

    Samsung wants to have its own OS for the same reason Google created it in the first place. To be able to sell services/ad's and to have control over where the OS is headed.

    Its not that hard to see at all why would Samsung want Google to continue to make money of its phones when it could be making the money itself.
    • Samsung cannot be a proprietary ecosystem like Apple

      Samsung already has its own ecosystem on Android.
      They've got their own appstore, media store, cloud services, etc.
      They don't need to have Tizen to have their own ecosystem.
      If they wanted to fragment users from Google with Tizen, they can already do it with their own Samdroid by masking Google.
      But trying to be a one stop shop like Apple just won't work for Samsung.
      • Yes!!!

        ... That is exactly what they are trying to do!!!!
        Raphael Sanches
  • Samsung has become the face of Android.

    I can't blaim Samsung for trying to control their own future in mobile. Look at all the PC companies who have been struggling because their whole future was riding on Windows 8 being a success.

    As I said before, Samsung can put their new OS on the majority of budget Phones and the majority of their users probably won't notice the change. This is why Google is throwing a fit, they've grown powerful of the back of Google and now can branch off taking many of their users with them.
  • Don't Forget About the Amazon Fire Phone

    For the reasons pointed out by timothyja Amazon is selling a phone based on their Fire OS.
  • Yep! It's dead; put a fork in it...

    With Samsung smartphones sales taking a fall, and with Samsung earnings also taking a dive, and with the entire smartphones market also meeting with sluggish sales, it definitely wasn't time for a new OS or ecosystem.

    Samsung is being cute by saying that they're just "postponing" until an ecosystems develops, but, they're just buying time until they have let the market absorb the news of the postponement, and then, they'll decide to finally scrap the whole experiment.

    No sense getting people's hopes up and ending up selling a few hundred thousand devices (or perhaps a few million), and then having to come back and announce the complete cancellation of the OS and ecosystem. Better to cut your losses early and not have to worry about a bunch of alienated users and plan providers.
    • adornoe@... is correct with his analysis

      The last thing on earth that Samsung needs is a reenactment of the Microsoft Kin debacle.

      Learning from one's own failures is only exceeded by also learning from the failures of others.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Why Tizen

    Is Tizen done? Probably. But we have to look why Samsung jump into a new operating system. First there is not much choice for a phone OEM to choose. Blackberry was falling and in a way it's like Apple iOS. No other company uses Blackberry OS. Same for iOS. There was Android and Windows. Android was relative free compare to Windows at that time and Microsoft did not know in which direction was going in relation to mobile.

    But as Samsung started to grow with Android, they realize there is no free lunch. There were things they were not happy and ware dependant on Google. Like any smart company, they decide not to put all their eggs in one basket. They made Windows phone, but their hope was on their own OS. It's not easy to build an operating system, especially with all the features people want, apps for it, etc.

    With Android, they already reach their highest point. From now on is down hill. There is too much competition. HTC, LG and many others are still losing money using Android OS on their phones. In China, the biggest market, there are dozens of phone makers using Android OS. Retailing at a lower price, Samsung cannot compete with them. At the high end, Apple is still the king. Is a no win situation. The question is how to make Tizen to compete against Android with all the Apps it have. It's similar to what Microsoft is going thru, but at least Microsoft have the money, the will and are moving along into third gear. Tizen have to start from first gear. While Samsung have the money, do they have the will? Will Samsung start losing money from their phone line like HTC and LG?
  • ".... why?..."

    Question: "...why would Samsung want to spend more money developing what, at best, would be a third-place mobile operating system?...."

    Answer: Full control of development/services/apps/content distribution, which means:

    SAMSUNG - GOOGLE = MORE PROFIT $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    Raphael Sanches