Tizen developers gather this week; Omlet messaging platform to add some edginess

Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch to work with Omlet and HTML 5 for third-party developers to make apps that keep messages private

The emerging Tizen OS has attracted few radical types, just as other open source platforms like Android did in their early days.

When the third annual Tizen Developer Conference kicks off this week in San Francisco, it will feature some well-known companies not necessarily associated with the word "radical," such as powerhouses Intel and Samsung as well as some newcomers looking to bring new ideas to the table.

Samsung plans to show off its new Samsung Z 4.8-in. display smartphone running Tizen. It promises to be the first commercially available smartphone running Tizen when it ships in the third quarter, starting in Russia.

Samsung will show off its new 4.8-in. Z smartphone at the Tizen Developer Conference this week.

Representing more of the radical side of the Tizen community will be Monica Lam, a computer science professor at Stanford University since 1988, now on leave. She's the CEO of startup MobiSocial, the maker of Omlet, an open and programmable messaging platform.

In her keynote on Tuesday, Lam plans to announce that Omlet messaging applications -- and their full focus on privacy -- can now run on the Gear 2 smartwatch running Tizen, which Samsung put on sale for $300 in April.

The Gear 2 runs Tizen, but communicates via Bluetooth with the Samsung Galaxy S 5, an Android phone.

A Gear 2 running Omlet will be able to quickly, in two clicks, send a photo snapped with the smartwatch's camera, to friends. Gear 2 users will also be able to initiate new voice and text messages while running or otherwise on the go, and respond to notifications that someone has texted, emailed or called with canned responses.

Some canned text responses like, "I'll call you later," are already native to the Gear 2, but Omlet is designed to make the process simpler.

Lam said in an interview in advance of her keynote that she hopes Omlet will become an open messaging platform that becomes commonplace across devices used in cars, wearables and elsewhere in the evolving world called the Internet of Things. Such devices need an efficient OS like Tizen, and can't really accommodate full Android.

"What's important is for all devices to talk," she said. "An open messaging platform is needed for all to standardize upon."

The central premise of Omlet is that users can fully maintain control of their messages, photos and videos -- storing the data in their own cloud account like DropBox and out of the hands of a big corporation like Facebook or Google.

"Omlet is a fun and safe way to connect with friends using the widest range of tools for self-expression while still giving you the peace of mind that your data will never be monetized or sold for money," the Omlet Web site says.

"Everybody is trying to make money out of using people's data and we believe we can't hold people's data hostage," Lam said.

MobiSocial has written a developer platform (a Software Developer Kit, or SDK) for writing apps atop of Omlet that honor the high level of privacy in Omlet.

Much of the development work will be done in HTML 5, although Omlet developers had to write code separate from HTLML 5 to work with both Tizen and Android using the SDK, Lam said. "We standardize at the Web level, so it doesn't matter what the OS is."

"HTML 5 is too slow and inappropriate for writing browsers, but once we have done our work, it's easy to write apps with Omlet in HTML 5," she added.

Lam has lofty ambitions for MobiSocial, even though the long-term prospects of Omlet as a revenue generator are unclear. Part of her enthusiasm stems from working for 26 years as a university professor where effecting broad change is encouraged.

"We will change the world as we enable a lot of developers to write apps that honor privacy," she vowed.

Revenues could come from payments from smartphone makers that include Omlet natively on their phones, she suggested, but she wouldn't reveal any details.

"Companies will pay for added messaging services," she said. Omlet already works with the $99 Asus Zen, a 4-in. display Android smartphone running with an Intel processor released earlier this year. Lam wouldn't say if her company has derived any revenues from that deal.

Noting that Facebook announced its purchase of messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion in February, Lam said, "it is hard to say how much money we're worth."

Lam's hoping the privacy features of Omlet can have value to the public and especially to developers in an open system.

"We're going for broke now, but this is going to change how everybody shares and writes code," she said. "We are a university group and have spent a lot already, which sucks compared to where we could be. But we are changing everything."

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 mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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