Ask folks about mobile operating systems and most will probably tell you that it's a two-horse race: Apple's iOS versus Google's Android.

The mobile OS landscape isn't this way because other companies haven't tried.

Microsoft has done some interesting things with Windows Phone, and Palm's webOS looked pretty darn promising when it launched.

For a variety of reasons, however, the market has coalesced around iOS and Android and in technology, the strong often get stronger as brands are established and ecosystems gain critical mass.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that the race is over. Apple's iOS is, of course, only available on Apple devices, so mobile phone manufacturers looking for a modern OS that can help their devices compete with the likes of the iPhone lineup embraced Android.

Doing so was pragmatic at the time, but reliance on Google has been a source of tension, frustration and worry. Carriers also have a love-hate relationship with Android due to limitations around customization.

Introducing Tizen

So a number of major players decided something must be done. In January 2012, they formed an alliance under an organization called the Tizen Association, with a singular goal: "facilitate open opportunity by providing a fresh platform that offers a high level of flexibility in service selection and deployment."

A detailed by CNET's Roger Cheng, the Tizen Association, which counts major companies like NEC, Panasonic, Orange, Sprint, Huawei, Vodafone and NTT DOCOMO as members, is essentially under the control of Samsung and Intel and could prove to be "Samsung's secret weapon in the mobile wars."

This year, Samsung plans to release its first handsets running Tizen, which is based on Linux and, unlike iOS and Android, treats HTML5 applications as first-class citizens. In fact, there's no Objective C or Java here: developers seeking to build apps that are distributed in the Tizen app store can do so using HTML, CSS and JavaScript without having to 'wrap' them in a webview.

Should you be paying attention?

Needless to say, Tizen faces an uncertain future. Despite the clout of its backers, establishing a competitive number three in the mobile OS space won't be easy. Just ask Microsoft, which has invested large sums into Windows Phone with relatively limited success.

But Tizen has one thing going for it: mobile phone manufacturers and carriers have a huge incentive to move away from Android. As NTT Docomo's managing director of strategic marketing, Kiyohito Nagata, observed, "If we become a dumb pipe, our revenue will continue to shrink."

In other words, building an OS on which mobile manufacturers and carriers can tap into revenue from the application layer of the mobile market -- perhaps the most lucrative part of the market going forward -- could be a life and death proposition for these companies.

That, for obvious reasons, gives them a great incentive to push Tizen, and even if they don't get it right the first time, or it takes longer than they would have liked to gain some traction, everybody in the mobile space, from developers to marketers, should pay attention:

Android isn't going away any time soon, but some of the most powerful players in mobile are committed to minimizing Android and if they have their way, an already complex and fragmented ecosystem could become even more complex and fragmented in the coming years.

Patricio Robles

Published 18 January, 2013 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)



BB10 is the most HTML5-friendly OS out there, bar none, and it is being released January 30.

Tizen is the same sort of thing, I suppose - I am interested to see how well BB10 does in the enterprise space.

over 5 years ago


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But that doesn't necessarily mean that the race is over. Apple's iOS is, of course, only available on Apple devices, so mobile phone manufacturers looking for a modern OS that can help their devices compete with the likes of the iPhone lineup embraced Android

over 5 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

The marketing and momentum is going to be critical: Microsoft's might doesn't seem to be getting Windows Phone back into the market despite their weight behind it.

Can Tizen really do the marketing? They are a big group of vendors, but there are some intrinsic conflicts of interest in the membership:

The Telcos are wondering if they can barge in and take some % margin for content being bought/viewed over their network ; that they get nothing for right now.
They don't really have the consumer at heart.

Whereas the phone manufacturers want to ship product, so want to release devices as powerful as they can, with as much goodness for the consumer as they can. So will not be keen to have Telco's put in cripple features that force the owner to buy their content via the Telco shop - as that will limit the attractiveness of the phone to their buyers.

But it will be interesting to see what Tizen deliver - and as mentioned above RIM's BB10 is nearly out: that too is interesting in that it has the promise of allowing 3rd party developers to build apps without any need for special dev kits or languages: just HTML5.

over 5 years ago

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