Samsung this week officially launched its long-anticipated Tizen phone, at the Tizen Developer Conference being held in San Francisco through Wednesday.
One description of Tizen is that it’s an open source Linux-based operating system from Samsung — but that might be open to debate.
The Samsung Z Tizen phone initially will debut in Russia in the third quarter. In the meantime, Samsung will boost its efforts to attract developers to create apps for the operating system.
Products already running Tizen include Samsung’s NX300M smart camera and the Systena Tizen tablet, both launched in October; and the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 smartwatch, released in April.
The move to Tizen “is really about wresting control over the software that underpins [Samsung’s] devices,” Carl Howe, a research vice president at the Yankee Group, told LinuxInsider. “Samsung wants a platform that it can control instead of waiting to hear what comes out of Mountain View.”
The Z’s Specs
The Samsung Z has a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display with 1,280 x 720 pixel resolution. It runs off an Intel 2.3 GHz quad-core processor.
It supports 2D and 3D graphics and has a built-in fingerprint sensor similar to the one in the Samsung Galaxy S5. It also has a heart rate sensor.
Other sensors include an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a compass, barometer and proximity sensors, as well as an RGB ambient light sensor.
The Samsung Z also has GPS Glonass. It supports WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n HT40 and MIMO.
The Samsung Z has an 8-MP rear camera and a 2.1-MP front camera. It has 16 GB of internal memory, and a 64 GB microSD slot. It will be available in black or gold.
Tizen will let users browse the Web faster and use applications more effectively, according to Samsung — but it did not say which OS it was comparing it to.
What’s a Tizen?
Tizen grew out of work done by the Linux Mobile Foundation, which was founded by Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic Mobile Communications, Samsung Electronics and Vodafone to work on an open, hardware-independent mobile OS.
LiMo and the Linux Foundation announced the Tizen project in September 2011.
In January of 2012, the Tizen Association replaced MeeGo, a Linux kernel-based free mobile OS project that was the love child of Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Maemo OSes, with the Linux Foundation’s blessing.
Tizen is not a continuation of MeeGo; instead, it builds on Samsung Linux Platform, a reference implementation delivered within LiMo.
The Fuss About FOSS
Tizen is said to combine the best open source technologies from LiMo and the Linux Foundation while adding a robust, flexible HTML5 and WAC (Wholesale Applications Community) development environment.
However, some of the technologies used in Tizen reportedly have conflicting licenses.
“Samsung is a predatory company, and their model suggests their open source rhetoric is just that and little else,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told LinuxInsider.
“Samsung benefits from open source, but it’s not yet clear that they are becoming big contributors to that corpus of software,” the Yankee Group’s Howe pointed out. As a result, Tizen “will simply be a derivative work of open source.”
Stumbling Toward the Market
Samsung’s efforts to make Tizen a viable alternative to Android have not gone smoothly. NTT DoCoMo and other supporters have pulled out of the association.
However, the Tizen Association gained 15 new members in February and reportedly gained another 37 in May.
Samsung also has had problems attracting developers. It has promised a special promotional program for all devs to run for one year with the Smartphone Z’s launch, and plans to host Tizen local app challenges in Russia and other markets.
“Historically they have sucked with developers, which dramatically lowers their likely success here,” Enderle said, “but, if they try and fail with this, Android could suffer a serious hit anyway, because Samsung drives most of the Android market.”
On the other hand, if Samsung’s strategy succeeds, he suggested, “they plan to largely replace Android with Tizen, locking out companies like HTC.”