Being the world's largest phone manufacturer, as well as the most prominent figure driving the Android ecosystem full steam ahead, what future does the alternative to Android (namely Tizen) hold for this Korean giant?
What Is Samsung's Future Away From Android?
Samsung is winning the game against all other smartphone makers except Apple. Right now, it is the best-selling brand in Android ecosystem by a very wide margin. Android and Samsung, both helped each other to propel their popularity. In India, one of Samsung's biggest markets, the term Android is almost synonymous to the word 'Galaxy'. People think Android is what Samsung Galaxy looks like, at least in India, where no Nexus device was ever released. I have heard people complain about stock Android when they used my Galaxy Nexus, because they think stock Android is very different, and they feel right at home while using a phone with TouchWiz on it. Even Samsung has stopped giving much importance to the term Android in its advertising. They only advertise TouchWiz, Samsung App Store, S-Health, S-Pen, S-Notes and what not. Samsung announced last year that it will launch high-end Tizen (another Android like OS) based smartphone this summer or fall. Is Tizen that implying that Samsung is trying to completely move away from Android or are there some other reasons? Let us check it out the whole scenario and try to know what is Samsung without Android and if it will succeed with Tizen.
Why Would Samsung Want To Shift Away From Android Anyways?
With millions of Samsung Android smartphones sold, they are overshadowing Google with the term Android. The brand 'Android' is no longer necessary for success of Samsung. The search volume on the web for the term 'Galaxy' is more than the volume of term 'Android'. There have been rumors of a growing cliff between Samsung and Google over this issue. The graph below from Asymco tells the whole story about this issue. Samsung has been able to earn more only from its mobile section compared to complete operations of Google.
Also, Microsoft is forcing most of the major Android OEMs to pay for patent infringement (they can't sue Google directly because Android is open source and is not owned by Google). Even Apple is suing Samsung for copying their UI and hardware designs (which are based on Android OS). Google's acquisition of Motorola has made Samsung think that they will not get the priority as the 'go-to' partner as it once was. So Samsung is thinking to move away from Android and decreasing their reliance on others by not putting all of its eggs into one basket. We all know what happened with Bada OS.
What is Tizen?
Intel and Samsung are the two players who are putting their weight behind Tizen. Samsung even donated around $500,000, according to AppleInsider, to become the Platinum member of Linux foundation. Tizen was formerly LiMo OS, after which Intel & Samsung planned to take it forward with inputs from Linux foundation and several car manufacturers. Vodafone, Fujitsu, Orange, Panasonic & Sprint are also its members.
But Is Anything That is Open Source Been Commercial Success?
You name it, Bada, LiMo, Maemo, MeeGo, Moblin who all were expected to be groundbreaking. But the real potential never came close to success in reality. These projects were either abandoned or merged.
The main reasons for their downfall were either one of these:
1. They didn't come from a well-known brand among consumers.
2. Bad app ecosystem.
3. Too late entry into market.
4. They were too similar to other mainstream OS.
Even though Tizen is fully compatible with HTML5, there will be need for full native app and developers backing. Samsung is well-known for bad software and UIs, as we have seen with TouchWiz and Bada. They are only known for strong hardware. What we know of Android and what Samsung is able to attain with Galaxy series of smartphones is because of mighty brains at Google. It would take decades for Samsung to become a software powerhouse.
Most of the native things like boot animation and the music player have been developed by Samsung under the Flora license, which is incompatible with requirements of open source initiative. It is not known if such components can be legally used for building FOSS. Bada is largely utilized for building Tizen 2.0 apps. Tizen's own backing is from Samsung; Intel and Linux foundation have not been known for making commercially successful software platforms or been popular with general consumers. If at all, Samsung moves away from Android, HTC will benefit a lot from it.
Is The OS Alone Enough?
Even if Tizen is one to one on features with Android, only the OS isn't good enough to make good smartphone. Strong background services like mail, maps, location based services, voice, etc. are very necessary. Even the mighty Apple, which has large cash reserves, tried to replace one part of Google's product; Google Maps and failed terribly.
Samsung isn't showing any love to Windows Phone platform and is treating it as step child. If ever Samsung is trying to move away from Android to Tizen or for that matter, decreasing its reliance on Android, it has to increase its efforts on Windows Phone devices. It would be helpful if Tizen sinks and Samsung will be left with at least one boat for its journey.
Without Android, Galaxy is nothing, even though Samsung is trying to completely keep Android under the wraps. In my opinion, Samsung isn't yet a brand that can create, run, support, improve and evangelize a whole new platform. Even Microsoft, one of the world's biggest software companies, has not got a hold of mobile operating system yet. I don't think Samsung can beat even Blackberry, let alone Microsoft, Apple and Google. Most probably, Samsung will continue on with Android, and release a few Tizen based handsets until they become mainstream.