Samsung has gone with Tizen for its Gear platform with the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo running that OS and has also decided to use a homebrewed RTOS for the Gear Fit. But so far there’s no word about a Tizen smartphone that’s been long overdue.
But now Yoon Han-kil, senior vice president of Samsung’s product strategy team, has said that the company was working to introduce at least two smartphones running on its own Tizen operating system, a major step in the market leader’s bid to break out of the Android universe.
Samsung wants to build its own ecosystem around Tizen to reduce its heavy reliance on Google Inc’s Android, which powers majority of the South Korean firm’s mobile devices. It also wants to open its own stream of revenue from sales of third-party apps and services on its devices, challenging the mobile software duopoly of Android and Apple’s iOS.
But expectations for the platform have sharply weakened after a series of delays in product launches. A global patent cross-licensing agreement between Samsung and Google in January further dampened prospects for a Tizen phone, as the deal was seen by some as locking Samsung deeper into Android.
Yoon said that although Android “still needs to be our main business”, Tizen or Windows would be used for markets that Android could not address. “We had tried to launch (Tizen) with DoCoMo and Orange … but couldn’t because of poor market conditions. We have changed our strategy and will release the phones in a few countries where we can do well,” he said, adding that he thought Tizen would have to account for up to 15 percent of Samsung’s total smartphone shipments to become a successful platform.
Samsung’s first Tizen phone, which will launch around the end of the second quarter, would be a high-end model and the second would mainly be aimed at the middle of the market to drive volume growth. The renewed Tizen campaign comes as Google steps up its own efforts to push Android in wearables, underscoring the high stakes in the next promised frontier in computing. The two tech giants are close allies and fierce competitors in the emerging wearable market.
Samsung dropped Android and switched to Tizen for the second version of its Gear smartwatch which went on sale last week, and the company wants its Gear smartwatches eventually to become compatible with all Android-based smartphones built by other companies, which will put Tizen directly up against Android.
Even so, Samsung plans to introduce Android-based smartwatch later this year, Yoon said.
Slowing growth in the high-end smartphone market has been a source of consternation for manufacturers like Samsung and Apple amid intensifying competition from Chinese upstarts like Huawei and Lenovo. “The slowing high-end market is indeed a concern for most manufacturers,” Yoon said.
“But we’re trying out a lot of new things like wearables, convergence with home devices and cars. I think there’ll be synergies here some day and it’ll eventually help us increase premium product sales longer term.”
In the meantime, Samsung is hoping multiple variations of its flagship products will hit as big an audience as possible, while Apple sticks to the premium segment. Apple is said to be preparing two devices with larger screens, at least one of which is expected to launch in the latter half of the year.
Yoon said Samsung was also planning to launch a new version of the Galaxy Note with a “new form factor” in the second half, without elaborating. “Our ultimate goal is to make products that consumers really aspire to have. This is how we are trying to find a breakthrough in the stagnant premium market,” he said.