Samsung's Tizen smartphone OS: Dead or alive?

Does Tizen have a future, or is it going to be another unlaunched Linux-based mobile operating system?
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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