There is a general feeling among the Android cognoscenti that Samsung is bad for Google. Most Android fans know that Samsung no longer markets its phones as Android. They either say Android-based or just say TouchWiz or Nature UX. This, despite the fact that Samsung sells the most Android smartphones in the world.
There’s of course nothing wrong with what Samsung is doing, lest this be mistaken for a complaint. As long as Samsung complies with the General Public License (GPL) terms and conditions, they are free to market their phones however they want. But its dominance of the market could have scared Google. Samsung sells about 40 percent of all devices that use Android as the OS and Google is reportedly worried that the Korean company’s Galaxy line of smartphones could grow larger than Android itself.
Google’s Motorola acquisition is seen as an answer to protect itself from such a situation becoming a reality. Google now has the manufacturing units that were previously owned by Motorola and can combine it with the software knowhow to release their own line of smartphones instead of the annual Nexus refresh. If, and this is a big if, the Mountain View company also manages to price these like it does the Nexus phones, then Samsung could have a real fight on its hands. As things stand, there is a slight tension in the air between the two companies, but things could get more intense.
Screenshots of the Tizen OS (image credit: SamMobile)
So what is Samsung’s backup plan if Google does decide to ‘go rogue’? That’s where Tizen comes into play. The OS began life as Meego and Samsung has taken over the reins and, along with the Linux Foundation, oversees its development. The company released the Tizen 2.0 Magnolia SDK last month and also showed off the OS running on a reference device. As an open source OS, Tizen is founded on the same principles as Android. Having a new OS to fall back on, makes Samsung less dependent on any particular platform. And as far as manufacturing phones is concerned, Samsung will not face many issues as it is currently the world’s largest phone maker.
Another worthy consideration is that Samsung has had its share of Android-related court battles. The company has strived to move as far away from patent lawsuits as possible, so giving their blessings to a new OS and cutting off the Android cord could be a sensible move. In any case, it’s not like Tizen is especially hampered by lack of apps given that OpenMobile's Application Compatibility Layer (ACL) allows users to install their favourite Android (or Bada) apps and games. That means Tizen has a bevy of applications from the outset to fall back on in case original development is an issue. Everything that Samsung has baked into their flagship phones can be ported over to Tizen as it is also Linux-based.
The new OS also allows Samsung greater control over the kind of devices it manufactures. The company can decide which direction to take the platform in, without having to worry about immediate goals since the Android affair is still roaring. It does give Samsung the chance to take a fresh shot at smartphones and produce optimal hardware and software configuration in one device, a la Apple.
The Tizen SDK is available for download
Tizen is a way for Samsung to dodge a significant risk, albeit a speculative one. At the moment, Tizen’s fontanel is still soft, so Samsung will stick with Android and even boost its standing in the market in the process. In the long run, though, Tizen could be what Bada couldn't be.