Tizen: hope springs eternal

The technology press and bloggers really seem to have no idea what to make of Tizen. First, it was a huge, credible threat to Android (*), but now that even people who really, really, really want to see Android in trouble can no longer maintain that Tizen is a serious threat, it’s now apparently magically a sign of Samsung’s weakness. Or, if you believe Reuters, it’s a sign of… Both? Or something?

Samsung Electronics Co. suffered another blow to its efforts to cut the dependency of its smartphone business on Google Inc.’s Android operating system, postponing the launch of a new model that runs on its own Tizen software.

The news is the latest disappointment for the Korean giant which is trying to defend its position as the world’s largest maker of smartphones from the twin challenges of Apple Inc. AAPL and, at the other end of the market range, Chinese companies such as Huawei, ZTE and Xiaomi.

Of course, those of us who have even a minute understanding of what it takes to create a successful and viable operating system and platform know full well just how unrealistic it is to see Tizen as anything but a fringe experiment that will, in all likelihood, never bear any fruit. You can ask BlackBerry and Microsoft just how hard it is to create, introduce, maintain, and grow a mobile platform in the current Android-iOS duopoly.

I would love for Tizen to be a success, but the cold and harsh truth of this world is that all evidence – both historical and current – points towards it not making any headway whatsoever in smartphones and tablets. Tizen may very well play a role in Samsung’s more embedded efforts – like TVs – but don’t expect it on any serious phone any time soon, let alone it being a threat to iOS, Android, Windows Phone or even BB10.

However, I want Tizen to be a success not because of some hand-wringing desire to see iOS or Android or Google or Samsung stumble and fall. No, I want it to be a success because the market – and thus consumers – always benefit from choice. The more platforms compete for that precious space in your pockets, the better all of them will become. Without Android, iOS would still be stuck at the level of version 2. Without Windows Phone, Android would still look like a cartoon. Potential other platforms would push the big three to even greater heights.

I’ve made my desire to buy a Tizen device very clear. Not because I believe it will change the world or because I consider it an “Android killer”, but because I believe diversity in the marketplace benefits us all – whether we’re an iOS, Android, or BeOS user.


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