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Tizen a Viable Android Competitor?

What the Heck is Tizen?

Tizen is a new mobile operating system currently in development by Samsung and Intel. If media reports are accurate, Tizen should be found on many different devices including high-end Samsung smartphones by 2014. Tizen introduces the first mobile OS where apps will be built solely with HTML5, Javascript and CSS, much like the web of today (think of the potential developer base for this OS, it’s much larger).  So far demonstrations of Tizen have shown HTML app performance to be surprisingly fast, I was largely impressed by this clip that demonstrates a beautifully animated picture gallery made entirely in HTML.

How’s Tizen Going to Infiltrate Android?

This is where things turn ugly. As you may know, Samsung floundered about with Bada its first Android “competitor” (massive air quotes here folks) which ultimately failed to go anywhere… This time it appears Samsung is trying to exploit the dreaded carrier model Android users have come to utterly despise. I say this because Samsung and Intel want to appease carriers like Japan’s NTT Docomo, Orange, Vodafone, etc. by allowing them to install whatever applications they want on your handset.  In fact, these carriers all have members on the board of Tizen, hmm…

A close look at Tizen’s officers and directors paints a pretty clear picture that Tizen’s in bed with the carriers. Ryoichi Sugimura, a Tizen officer, board member and employee of NTT Docomo, stated that he was particularly fond of the fact Tizen didn’t require adopters to stick to “application and feature mandates”. Of course Sugimura means that unlike the Android Open Handset Alliance, where members are required to adhere to various standards preventing most bloatware, Tizen will be wide open appeasing carriers everywhere and helping them gain back the control they lost with Android.

But Won’t Tizen Fail if it’s Stuffed Full of Bloatware?

See, that’s the thing. The carrier model is despised because it’s been successful at limiting competition, this limited competition is exactly what Samsung and Intel are hoping will allow Tizen to flourish. See Samsung and Intel know they can’t really compete against Android, at least they can’t in a completely open market where users choose what they want. Bada taught Samsung this lesson and Samsung doesn’t want to take on Android head-to-head again. No, instead Samsung and Intel want to provide carriers an incentive (the ability regain control of their software and of course install bloatware) to basically push their Tizen phones on their networks.

We could very likely see a situation where carriers subsidize Tizen phones much heavier than Android phones due to the fact they can “monetize” them with their bloatware. We may also see carriers in areas of little to no competition completely abandoning Android in favor of Tizen. Cellular monopolies around the world pose a significant risk to Android given that they could actually do this and users would have virtually no choice.

What’s Google Doing About Tizen?

Google is proactive, Google looks for risks on the horizon and tries to mitigate them well in advance. In this case, Google foresaw this potential threat and this is one of the main reason they’ve heavily subsidized the unlocked and off-contract Nexus line of phones. By selling a subsidized phone Google is essentially beating the carriers at their own game, however, Google’s intent is much more pure as the whole purpose of this exercise is to stop the prevalence of bloatware and increase competition at the carrier level.

Frankly, Google’s Nexus line is no where big enough to significantly disrupt the cellular monopolies, however, I’m certain carriers aren’t ignoring the threat the Nexus line poses. Android made a massive dent in the market and changed the industry forever, it’d be a mistake to think that Google’s Nexus line won’t also grow massively in the next few years. Given threats like Tizen, I foresee Google pushing their own Android hardware now more than ever.

Will Tizen Succeed?

Tizen will ultimately fail because there’s no compelling reason to switch to another mobile OS. While Tizen will undoubtedly have a much larger developer base, but that doesn’t mean much if you’re only playing catch-up. Android already has the vast majority of apps you could ever want and new exciting games are released daily, how do you reel in and pass that freight train?

Forcing your OS upon customers through carriers appears to be an act of desperation and I truly believe Tizen is just that. Tizen is the industry’s last attempt to regain control and prevent the ever growing dominance of Android. Tizen will fail because there’s no reason for it to succeed except to make carriers richer.

What do you think, are you worried about Tizen?


  1. tizen is the typical rant/wet wish of big company managers over expensive meals. it will probably be driven to chaos by c-grade project managers in their blue shirts and grey trousers shouting at poor unfortunate interns, forcing them to work overnight in something nobody believes just to please whichever big boss happen to visit the office next thursday.

    Developing quality software needs planning, time, commitment and competence, nothing any carrier will offer.

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