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Samsung has used the Tizen OS for its all-new Gear Fit smartwatch, and most industry experts believe that a Tizen phone might also be coming along soon. In the following discussion, we highlight a few points that justify Samsung’s gradual move away from Google Android.
Many techies were taken by surprise when, at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year, Samsung launched its Gear Fit smartwatch – a device that was powered by the Tizen operating system. It only added fuel to the already buzzing rumors that the South Korean company is looking beyond Google Android as the default platform for its next line of gadgets – including, of course, smartphones. We here take a look at some of the key factors why Samsung is starting to promote Tizen OS instead of its long-time ally, Android:
- Expansion of activities – Samsung Mobile has been in the smartphone business long enough to start expanding its line of activities beyond developing only mobile hardware. Tizen OS is its in-house platform, and if it starts gaining in popularity – Samsung will no longer have to stay overly reliant on the periodic Android updates released by Google. Owners of Samsung phones would also get more customized features.
- Insecurity – Google Android powers Samsung phones, but it is the default platform for Motorola devices as well. It’s understandable why the former company would start looking for a different OS, from that of one of its biggest rival brand. At the end of the day, product-differentiation matters – and Samsung wishes to be perceived ‘differently’ from Motorola.
- Profitability from mobile apps – With nearly 65% of all Android devices being made by Samsung, there is no room for doubting the dominant position of the company in this sector. However, experts from mobile app companies agree that this does not translate to hefty revenues for the South Korean mobile giant. On app and game downloads from the Play Store, Google reaps the dividends. If Samsung has a separate OS, it can start earning more from mobile apps (particularly from the wildly popular Galaxy handsets).
- Lowering bug and malware risks – Android is, by far, the leading mobile OS in terms of market-share – but things underneath are not as uniformly rosy. Over the last couple of years, there have been reports of many Android handsets getting infected by Trojan viruses and/or other malicious bugs. Although Google started providing Verify Apps, cases of users unknowingly installing virus-ridden apps from the Play Store is still pretty common (a point where Apple iTunes steals a march on the Android store). Samsung would surely make Tizen more secure, to bring down such complaints.
- Having its own mobile ecosystem – Microsoft has Nokia, Apple uses its proprietary OS for iPhone handsets, and Motorola Mobility is owned by Google. There seems to be hardly any reason for Smsung not willing to/not being able to create its own mobile OS, instead of staying dependant on Android. Samsung might not have come this far without Google’s support, but it can now start using an OS that can hold its own.
- Tizen would serve an entire range of electronic gadgets – Thanks to the high-on-functionality Tizen platform, Samsung no longer needs to hope for more profits from its smartphone business alone. Choi Jong Deok, a senior executive from Samsung, has already stated that the new OS would power television sets, refrigerators and wearable devices (like the already launched Gear Fit) too. If Tizen lives up to the hype Samsung is building up around it, there will be plenty of earning channels for the company – even after it parts ways with Android.
- Growing interest among developers – Samsung recently concluded the Tizen App Challenge, which had a $4 million prize money for the mobile application developer who could create the best apps for the Tizen platform. Well over $2 million was spent for conducting this competition – clearly indicating that the company was treating the development of Tizen extremely seriously. The response to the contest was very good, indicating that Samsung won’t face a shortage of developers, if and when it decides to fully replace Android with Tizen.
- Steering clear of controversies – Samsung and Apple have been at loggerheads at most times. During the recently concluded lawsuit between the two, the role of Google came to the fore like never before. Samsung had to seek the help of Google to testify that it was already working on the mobile technologies for which Apple had brought in patent infringement charges. A completely new OS like Tizen would, hopefully, help Samsung to stay away from such legal tussles in future. Steve Jobs had once referred to Android as a ‘stolen product’ – and Samsung no longer needs to cling on to it.
- The Linux assurance – Tizen is a HTML5-based mobile OS, supported by both Samsung as well as the Linux Foundation. In theory, it can become more than a match to Google Android – in terms of quality, security, reliability, and other key aspects. The open-source nature of Android has often come in for criticism, and Tizen might just be a better alternative for Samsung to use on its smartphones in future.
- Need to focus more on mobile software – Samsung’s mobile hardware business is profitable – but the ever-increasing competition might cause the earnings to taper off in the foreseeable future. In the budget smartphone sector, the earning potentials are, in any case, limited – while for the more pricey mobile segment, Samsung cannot yet compete on its own with Apple’s well-established ecosystem. The only way out to remain viable over the long-run is to focus more on the underlying software for handsets. Samsung cannot dictate Google how Android upgrades should be planned – but with Tizen, it will have full freedom to establish an ecosystem of its own.
Although Samsung’s switch from Android to Tizen seems to be in the offing, the transition might not be as seamless as originally envisaged. The Tizen project has already been delayed multiple times – and in case it has a limited collection of mobile apps, it would be blown away by iOS and Android (much like what has happened with Blackberry 10). The good thing is, Tizen has been modeled on the lines of Android itself, and Samsung has no plans to launch it on smartphones before ironing out all probable issues with it. It will be fascinating to watch how Samsung fares with its Tizen, against the might of Google Android.