Symphony Teleca’s Andrew Till talks about where Tizen has been, and where it is going.

tizen When does the coming Tizen revolution begin?

You probably haven’t heard of Symphony Teleca, a software services company that usually stays behind the scenes, but you might be familiar with the mobile revolution it’s trying to instigate.

Working with the Tizen Association members – a trade group made up of the who’s who in the mobile sector — Symphony Teleca has become something of a major player in the Tizen ecosystem.

Next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will see the first major announcements from manufacturers on devices supporting the up-and-coming mobile operating system Tizen. For Symphony Telelca, this will be the conclusion of nearly a two year effort to shake up the mobile ecosystem with the first real challenger to Android.

VR-Zone sat down with Andrew Till, a senior vice president with the company and head of its mobile division, to talk about what the future might hold for Tizen.

VR-Zone: Can you give us a quick rundown of how you’ve been working with manufacturers on Tizen?

Symphony Teleca has been involved in the embedded space for the best part of 12 years. During this time we were involved with Samsung and LG around the development of [Tizen predecessor] LiMo. At the same time we were Nokia’s largest partner with Maemo (a now defunct Linux-based mobile OS). As these different platforms ended up converging on Tizen we ended up in a fairly unique position insofar that we had plenty of engineers that had lived with the evolution of the platform for several years.

About a year and a half ago we started taking the early releases of the Tizen SDKs that were coming out and went back to both Intel and Samsung and talk to them about what we saw as missing gaps in the platform or what we saw as issues with stuff like APIs and reference code.

There are two ways of looking at Tizen. For Samsung, if you look across their range of businesses and look at the number of OS platforms they are using for embedded solutions — TVs, set top boxes, appliances — they are spending an absolute fortune on incompatible software assets. And so for them, first and foremost, if they can harmonize four or five of those product lines onto a common software asset, and have natural reuse between those product lines, they will save a huge amount of money.  Save an excess of a billion dollars in software costs by moving to a common platform.

VRZ: Would you say the biggest push towards the adaptation of Tizen comes from fear of an Android monopoly?

Google has got phenomenal success, but at 70 to 80 percent market share in the mobile market people get very nervous. People want another platform.

I wouldn’t necessarily say scared, but I think it’s two dimensions: nobody likes to have full exposure just on one platform;  The second is, and I think Google shares this view, without an alternative platform with 20 to 25 percent market share the danger for Google is its own innovation cycle drops off.

You’re back to the same discussion we would have five years ago with Symbian. The reality is if you don’t have someone driving you on, your innovation rates drop and you get blindsided.

In this industry the biggest threat is new paradigms in the core architecture coming along and completely taking you by surprise. You need competition to drive innovation. That’s the big thing that’s worrying people, ‘where is the competition when one company has such a large market share’.

VRZ: Aren’t there parallels to this monopoly story with ARM in the mobile ecosystem? 

I think that the real story that’s happening in the market place is an east versus west story that’s taking place. In the west you’ve got Android, and in the east you’ve got [devices running] the Android Open Source Project [a truly open-source version of Android that can be built upon] plus proprietary service layers.

I’m sitting here at CES, and interestingly noticing the number of people carrying around Alibaba bags. The average person in the U.S. would not realize that Alibaba is, like, three times the size of eBay and Amazon combined, and holds the world record for online transactions in a single day. Or you’ve got Tencent, or Baidu… these guys are massive.

Then you go out to China and realize the market is not Android, it’s AOSP plus one of these other guys providing the service layers. The only player here in the US following that strategy is Amazon [with its Kindle Fire] and quite interesting has probably shown the guys in Asia that this is another way of playing the game.

When you break it down that way, interestingly know what I’m looking at is not Google dominating the world but rather the growing importance of service layers. Then I break that down and see that one of Tizen’s best competitive advantages is that it doesn’t come with all these branded services. You don’t have to keep unstitching everything to reintegrate into different solutions or figure out how to take out all the touch points where Google is sucking all the data out about the user behaviour.

There really is space for a platform like Tizen to come along and be successful.

VRZ: So Tizen’s first growth story will be in Asia?

The market where we’ll see it first is Asia and Eastern Europe. I don’t think we’ll see a lot of Tizen activity in Western Europe and North America this year. I don’t think that’s the game plan.

VRZ: Thanks for your time.