Samsung’s Tizen-based future

Thom Holwerda at OSNews argues that Samsung is setting up Tizen to dethrone Android on their smartphones. While I think OSNews tries for thoughtfully contrarian, they far more often come across as reflexively so, but Holwerda offers some interesting data points this time around:

  • Samsung has said that the Tizen phones being released later this year are high-end, not low-end. This contradicts what most industry watchers (including me) were assuming their plan was.
  • Tizen’s UI is apparently very close to TouchWiz, the UI layer Samsung imposes on Android. This will make it familiar for users.
  • Tizen will ship with an “application compatibility layer” from OpenMobile that lets many Android applications run on it unmodified.

Hacker News commenter MatthewPhillips makes a good observation:

I reached [this] conclusion from Windows Phone’s failure: being good isn’t necessarily enough. Momentum matters a whole lot. Which, to me, makes Tizen a bit of a mystery. If Android has the momentum Tizen will fail, but if Samsung has it Tizen might just have a chance.

While the kind of consumer who buys Android specifically for Android will very likely avoid Tizen, it appears Samsung is betting most buyers of their smartphones aren’t that kind of consumer. They may be right. If the functionality is about the same and the application store still has a few hundred thousand applications in it thanks to ACL, then there may be a whole lot of buyers who are just fine with that.

Ironically, what Samsung may be doing is taking a variant of the path that Nokia rejected. With Qt, Nokia already had their equivalent of the Application Compatibility Layer available; if they had been willing to forgo Google’s branding, the Lumia devices could have been Android-based phones with the Harmattan UI, with a software library of not only native Android apps but Qt apps fairly easily recompiled from legacy Nokia devices.