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Why would Samsung release a Galaxy S3 device based on Tizen OS instead of Android?

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Tizen logoThe latest Samsung rumors making the rounds are that the leading smartphone supplier is working on a Samsung Galaxy S3 model that runs the open-source Tizen operation system rather than Android. There are several indications that this rumor holds water which begs the question, why would Samsung introduce a device running on Tizen?

On September 25, 2012, Tizen 2.0, an open-source smartphone operating system based on a Linux kernel, was made available as an alpha release. The OS is indeed immature but it does have the backing of Samsung and Intel who likely intend to use the operating system in smartphones, tablets, in-car infotainment devices, and smart TVs. The new alpha release indicates the OS is very close to a usable, stable state.

Step back two weeks and you will recall that the Wi-Fi Alliance published a document certifying a smartphone named “GT-I9300_TIZEN” had passed Wi-Fi interoperability compliance tests. Samsung quickly requested the Wi-Fi Alliance change the model name in the document to “GT-I9300Z”, removing the Tizen moniker but retaining a “Z” in the model name for prosperity. GT-I9300 is the model name given to Samsung Galaxy S3 phones which gives us a clear indication that Samsung is developing a Galaxy S3 model based on the Tizen operating system. Analysts expect a Tizen-based device to be introduced by Samsung in 2013.

Samsung LogoThere are several reasons why a Tizen-based smartphone makes sense for Samsung. Notwithstanding their dominate Android-based Galaxy S3 platform, it doesn’t hurt to have an ace up your sleeve. A Tizen smartphone gives Samsung an alternative to Android during a time in which Samsung is being pummeled with patent lawsuits directly related to Android and Samsung’s customizations to the Android OS. Samsung has already been locked out of several markets during these lawsuits.  In addition, the Google/Motorola partnership surely concerns Samsung in some manner. That Motorola based phones will receive preferential treatment, despite what Google states publicly, is a no-brainer. Possibly Google will placate Samsung with early Android OS releases and such but it is a smart move for Samsung to not naïvely assume this will always be the case. Google is going to do what’s best for Motorola, no question about that.  And let’s consider that a Tizen-powered device could enter the market as a low-end device that is cheap, stable, bare bones, open source, customizable, Android compatible, and fast.

Can a Tizen powered device really take off? Let’s not forget that Tizen, via its Application Compatibility Layer (ACL), will have the capability to run Android applications with a claimed 100% compatibility. That’s huge. In addition, Samsung stands to capture a large segment of the Asian market, a market which is expected to pass English-speaking nations within a year or two. Yeah, in the future we may see a Tizen powered smartphone market with Google scrambling to pummel Samsung with lawsuits.

Do we think we’re about to enter a Tizen dominated world? In a word – no. In two words – probably not. It’s too soon for Android to lose its dominating position in the marketplace and despite a poor OS upgrade process, it’s a very well-designed operating system. But with a native Android compatibility layer and possibly a nice, efficient OS upgrade process, who knows? Something to think about…