Samsung takes baby steps in touting Tizen OS to developers

Open source OS is viewed as a cross-platform opportunity, and an example that Samsung isn't fully dependent on Android

SAN FRANCISCO -- The open source Tizen mobile operating system is one of the most visible examples that Samsung isn't completely dependent on the Android mobile OS.

At the Samsung Developer Conference here this week, Samsung held a single breakout session on developing apps using Tizen. The session was led by two engineers from Intel, which is working jointly with Samsung to create code to enable Tizen to run across multiple hardware platforms, including tablets, smartphones, cars and smart TVs.

Most of Samsung's smartphones and tablets run Android or the company's own Bada OS. In fact, Samsung is by far the largest Android smartphone maker globally, as well as the largest maker of smartphones overall, according to IDC and others.

The company makes Windows Phone smartphones as well, though a Windows Phone session wasn't among the 50 scheduled at the developer conference. Nearly all of the sessions focused on applications or services that work on Android.

Tizen has a modern Internet interface for use on devices, supporting HTML 5 and other Web technologies, so developers can theoretically write applications once to work on many devices. A Samsung roadmap for Tizen rollouts hasn't been announced.

At the Tizen session on Tuesday, two developers in the audience said they had different experiences with their early Tizen development efforts.

Developers at MightyMeeting, a maker of business collaboration applications, have been using Tizen with promising results because of its use of HTML 5 across platforms, said Mighty Meeting CEO Dmitri Tcherevik.

On the other hand, Shivakumar Mathapathi, chief operating officer at Dew Mobility, said his company tried the Tizen 2.1 Software Development Kit (SDK) with Windows 8.1 desktop and found it wasn't very stable. He didn't provide any details.

Tcherevik said that Samsung's interest in Tizen demonstrates that it's "willing to try many different things" even as a large company.

Some attendees at Samsung's first developer conference said they were glad to see Samsung show off its distinctive features with Android at an event other than the Google I/O conference. Here, Samsung could separate itself from other Android smartphone and tablet makers.

A few analysts have said Samsung is going a step further in offering its own developer conference, using it as preludes into Tizen and its own Samsung app store. Further, those analysts say Samsung is clearly trying to show off its own brand of products and software and emphasize that it is not entirely dependent or aligned with Android and Google.

In an interview, Curtis Sasaki, vice president of Samsung's Media Solution Center in the U.S., said that Samsung's separate app store, its developer efforts, its interest in Tizen and other moves are "not about forking Android or any of that stuff ... Android is big enough and continuing to grow. If we can continue to grow that ecosystem, then that's good for everybody."

"Google is a great partner of ours. Our job as a platform provider is to really help developers take advantage of core applications," Sasaki added.

Abe Elias, chief technical officer at Sencha, a Web application developer, praised Samsung for supporting Tizen and HTML 5.

Sencha uses HTML 5 to provide cross-platform applications to many large companies. There are 2 million registered developers using Sencha's tools.

"We're a huge fan of Tizen, and HTML is native in Tizen," Elias said in an interview. One reason application developers should support HTML 5 for making Web apps is to avoid the 30% fee charged by app stores to host a native app, he said.

Elias agreed that Samsung isn't trying to fork Android, but noted that the company has been separating itself from Google with a number of forked apps that ride atop of Android. For example, Google uses the Chrome browser with Android, while Samsung's browser is simply called Internet. Also, while Google has Hangouts, Samsung has Chat-On.

"Samsung's forking apps, not Android," he said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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