Participants at the Tizen Developer Summit 2013 in Seoul, South Korea.
It looks like the first Tizen-based Samsung smartphones are finally getting closer to release.
The Korean electronics giant is preparing to launch a Tizen-based smartphone in Russia and India, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Russian release will reportedly coincide with the Tizen Developer Conference, which takes place in San Francisco this June. Samsung will hold a launch event in Russia that's similar to its global Galaxy launches, WSJ reported.
Tizen is an open-source, Linux-based operating system led by Intel and Samsung. Like Samsung's previous Bada effort, Tizen is focused on emerging markets and low-cost devices.
Samsung's efforts to bring a Tizen-based smartphone to the market have been beset with delays.Samsung's efforts to bring a Tizen-based smartphone to the market have been beset with delays. The first Tizen release was originally planned for 2012, which then became 2013. After 2013 came and went with no Tizen release, Samsung delayed the release of its first Tizen phone again in January.
Meanwhile, carrier partners — including Japan's NTT DoCoMo — have lost interest. Because Tizen is designed to run on a variety of devices, a few Tizen-based products have hit the market, including Samsung's Gear 2 smartwatch.
A Google-free OS
Samsung already controls 65% of the Android-device market, so why should it even bother with Tizen?
Two words: Ecosystem control.
Because it uses Android, Samsung's current mobile-device strategy relies on Google. Although Samsung can make some changes and tweaks to the interface, and offer its own unique applications, fundamental aspects of the OS must remain in Google's control. What's more, the future direction of the platform is shaped by Google, not Samsung.
With Tizen, Samsung has the opportunity to build its own platform. Not only can Samsung customize this platform in ways that Google won't let it (say, put in a different default mapping client or make changes to the interface), it also has the potential to build its own app ecosystem — one that Samsung, not Google, can profit from.
So why Russia and India? Samsung already has a strong presence in these markets, and as WSJ noted, the company is hoping users will be swayed by the Samsung brand (and low price point), rather than access to Android and Google apps.
It also aims to capture users in India and Russia who don't have smartphones. Like Facebook, Samsung hopes they will become life-long customers.
the point of Tizen isn't to steal business from the 1.5 billion users who already have smartphones, it's to attract the next 2 billion smartphone users.the point of Tizen isn't to steal business from the 1.5 billion users who already have smartphones, it's to attract the next 2 billion smartphone users.
It's a strategy that could pay off. As long as Samsung ensures that the most-used applications (i.e. WhatsApp, Facebook) are available, it could be enough to take over the lowest end of the smartphone market. These users could then graduate to more expensive, premium Samsung smartphones in the future.
This tactic is similar to what Nokia is trying to do with its Android-based devices. The difference (aside from built-in support for existing third-party Android app stores), is that Samsung is an aspirational brand in a way that Nokia is not.
Will anyone care?
Of course, this is Samsung, so execution will be essential. The company is famous for having great ideas that don't necessarily take off because the experience isn't seamless.
What's more, Chinese and Taiwanese phone makers are increasingly pushing down prices of higher-end, Android-based smartphones. This ruins some of the appeal of a Tizen-based Samsung device, at least in regions that already have some 3G infrastructure.
It's possible that Tizen's true value might not be realized for several years. In the meantime, Samsung's strategy of basing its non-smartphone connected devices on Tizen, might have more of an impact.