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6/2/2014
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Samsung Z Runs Tizen, Not Android

Samsung smartphone uses open-source platform created by Samsung and Intel, but is there room in the market for this OS?

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Microsoft Surface Pro 3: 10 Tablets Paved Its Way
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Samsung Monday finally introduced the Samsung Z, the first smartphone to run its Tizen operating system. The Z forgoes Google's Android platform in favor of a standards-based, open-source platform created by Samsung and Intel. While Samsung claims the device offers everything the discerning smartphone buyer wants at a more affordable price, it faces significant challenges.

The device itself falls into the middle range of the market compared to competing models. It has a 4.8-inch 720p screen and a 2.3-GHz quad-core processor of unknown make. The phone carries 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage, expandable to 64 GB through use of memory cards. It has an 8-megapixel main camera and a 2.1-megapixel user-facing camera. Samsung says the camera comes with many of the same features its Android phones offer, such as Dual-Shot, Panorama, and Beauty Shot. The phone's design is clearly drawn from Samsung lineage, though it does differ from Samsung's Galaxy-branded Android hardware.

Samsung was a bit short on details about the Z's operating system and applications. The device runs Tizen OS 2.2.1 and will include an app store for Tizen-based apps. Samsung didn't say how many apps it expects to be available to the Z at launch. We know nothing about email, navigation, messaging, and other core apps and about what features they do and don't include -- for example, does the email client support Exchange, or is it limited to POP/IMAP?

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Samsung did say the Z delivers a "fast, optimal performance with improved memory management." The company claims the phone offers fast startup times and instant multitasking, 2D and 3D graphics support, smooth scrolling and quick Web page rendering, and hard-wired security thanks to the built-in fingerprint sensor. It also comes with the company's Ultra Power Saving mode to improve battery life, as well as dynamic color themes and customizable home screen panels. In truth, images posted by Samsung of the home screen show an operating system that looks hardly different from Google's Android platform.

Samsung didn't reveal pricing for the Z, other than to say it will cost less than the company's crop of Galaxy-branded Android smartphones. The Galaxy S5 has a full retail price of $649. The Samsung Z will first launch in Russia during the third quarter, followed by other regions that favor low-cost hardware. There's no word if or when the Samsung Z will ever reach the US. Such a device needs carrier support to sell. Earlier this year, Samsung cancelled the launch of its Tizen phones in Japan because carriers balked at the last minute. Sprint initially backed Tizen, but has been mum on the subject for more than a year. That doesn't portend well for the Samsung Z's chances.

Samsung Z (image: Samsung)
Samsung Z (image: Samsung)

Samsung clearly makes hardware people are willing to pay for. The value of the operating system is questionable at best. The Z may cost less than flagship devices, but so do dozens of mid-range Android smartphones from established hardware companies. These devices have access to more than 1 million Android apps, in addition to the apps and services provided by Google itself.

Samsung and Intel have been developing Tizen for years. Rising from the ashes of Samsung's Bada platform, the OS is based on Linux. An SDK for the platform lets developers create apps using HTML5. (In fact, the Tizen Association is holding a developer conference in San Francisco this week.) If you're on the fence about Tizen, check out the SDK and other tools to see if it is worth more consideration.

With carriers barely supporting long-established players BlackBerry and Windows Phone, it's unlikely that any US carrier will sell the Samsung Z. The dominance of Android and iOS leave little room for a fifth smartphone operating system.

IT is turbocharging BYOD, but mobile security practices lag behind the growing risk. Also in the Mobile Security issue of InformationWeek: These seven factors are shaping the future of identity as we transition to a digital world. (Free registration required.)

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
6/10/2014 | 4:48:05 AM
Consumers want competition, the corporatocracy does not
Given Google's increasingly despotic lockdown of the Android OS, personally, I would welcome Tizen at this point since I want affordable hardware and a truly open source platform (as opposed to Google's pretend open platform that is anything but.) But unfortunately, I don't see any of the corporately consolidated carriers agreeing to any smartphone that has the ability to save the consumer money. This is the price American consumers pay for the total ownership of its government by big money players.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
6/7/2014 | 12:34:41 PM
Bizarre Decision
So is Samsung putting Tizen up as competition to Android? Will they ultimately want to only manufacture their own phones? Will they license Tizen to other manufacturers too? After all, if Intel is the co-developer/co-owner, then it's a pretty good bet that they're involved because they can sell more mobile CPUs, and the more companies making Tizen devices, the more Intel will sell in theory.

And then I start wondering how Samsung will feel the first time a competitor skins Tizen and starts adding their own apps to it and replacing the ones Samsung creates. Hmm.

I thought this was interesting by the way:

"The Samsung Z will first launch in Russia during the third quarter, followed by other regions that favor low-cost hardware"

Is the idea to sell it places where you have a better chance of making it the defacto standard? But there are cheap Android devices out there too, so what's the benefit? Economics would also seem to suggest to my naive mind that people will only put time and effort into developing for Tizen if there's a marketplace for it. Samsung's marketplace is a selling point, but you're aiming to sell it to people who apparently don't want to spend lots of money, so how much spare are they going to have to for those apps? There's no point having an ecosystem if nobody lives in it...

I have to say - and I'll probably regrest these words in a year or so - this strategy sounds absolutely bizarre, and is surely doomed to fail. There's no way Samsung will detach from Android given how much money it makes them, and I don't believe they can focus on two competing platforms successfully. If Tizen always has the lower grade hardware it's like putting a noose around its neck.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 4:06:27 PM
Re: corporate greed
What's better? Great hardware and bad software? Or great software and bad hardware?

I would take the softwar any day. Tizen may be a slam-dunk, but I'd guess I would be unhappy with buggy code wrapped around a very nice phone. I will let someone else test this one out. 
ShaneJax
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ShaneJax,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/2/2014 | 2:44:31 PM
Re: corporate greed
If Samsung can pull off their own OS it will force themselves to lower their prices on their Android phones? Sense, you aren't making any...
Inverse137
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Inverse137,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 1:04:16 PM
Re: corporate greed
Do you just kind of make this nonsense up as you go alongz?

 

Samsung already offers a "cheaper" handset.  And I don't think you realize that a phone needs nore than software to work so offering a "free" OS won't really do anything on the price.

 

Your argument of corporate "greed" could be a good one.  But what you choose to focus on doesn't make any sense.
GeeboH
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GeeboH,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/2/2014 | 12:37:28 PM
I predict...
Smart phone running Mystery OS. Sounds like a real winner...I wouldn't touch this thing with a pole built out of TouchPads.
JackS304
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JackS304,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/2/2014 | 12:10:47 PM
corporate greed
If they can pull this off this would force apple and samsung to lower their prices. Corporate greed is getting out of control. I am already thinking of switching from greedy apple to a greedy samsung android. But if samsung can offer a cheaper version i would be all for it. 
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