What Samsung needs to do to make Tizen matter

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“Welcome to the Tizen Association, an industry consortium dedicated to providing in-market support and actively shaping the industry presence of Tizen.”

That’s the message which appears when you visit tizenassociation.org. And I want to focus on the latter half of that sentence: “… dedicated to providing in-market support and actively shaping the industry presence of Tizen.”

In 2013, Tizen was mentioned here and there, devices were rumored, and we got a few glimpses at what to expect on the software side of things. The unofficial progress reports showed the platform growing and developing according to plan, and inching closer to becoming a real consumer product.

That, unfortunately, never happened last year, as delays threw a wrench in the works.

We’re not quite one month into 2014 yet, and the talk of Tizen has increased, exponentially, as well as questions surrounding the mysterious platform, like: “What or who is it even for?” or “When will we see retail models?

With Samsung’s mobile efforts now spread across four mobile platforms – Android, Tizen, Bada, and Windows Phone – a handful of theories surrounding the platform and its place in the market have arose. Those theories range from Samsung’s eventual endgame to pack up and leave the Android ecosystem (which now seems more likely than ever) to it being for regional-specific markets only.

It’s impossible to say what exactly Samsung has planned for Tizen, but it’s a safe bet we’ll find out later this year.

Don’t hold your breath for anything major at Mobile World Congress, though. Our own Stephen Schenck reported yet another Tizen delay one week ago, stating the unlikeliness we’ll see a Tizen-powered phone (in any official capacity) before the second half of the year.

tizen-zeketizen-9005That said, two Tizen leaks surfaced in the last two days, one render and a Tizen-powered smartphone allegedly spotted in the wild. And judging by these leaks and the latest rumors, we can assume Samsung aims to compete with its own successful brands, namely the high-end Galaxy S lineup. The leaked ZEQ 9000, with a Snapdragon 800 SoC, bears striking similarities to the Galaxy S 4 and ATIV S.

Still, regardless of all the hypotheticals, theories, and rumors, it’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room.

Talk of Tizen may be up, thanks to leaks and rumors. But interest still seems as mixed as ever. Few understand why they should care about yet another fledgling platform and, likewise, question why developers would want to develop for a third (or even fourth, in some cases) operating system.

But take a stroll through the comments in any Tizen news piece. You’ll find plenty of people debating whether they should be excited for Samsung’s own OS. Some seem genuinely excited, but it’s likely over the thought of something truly new, instead of a marginal OS update and UI improvement.

At the very core, we have very few reasons to care or to be excited at all. In fact, without a hard launch date and with back to back delays, my interest completely waned months ago.

jollaI was on the edge of my seat for MeeGo. But that ship has sailed, and the somewhat confusing family tree of how MeeGo came to be and how it (sort of) lives on no longer interests me. The idea of Sailfish OS is marginally more exciting than Tizen, but I have trouble caring about either – not because I’m crotchety and hate new things or change, but because I have been given no reason to care and countless reasons to be skeptical.

How many operating systems have we seen sprout up since the iPhone was originally launched? And how many of those are dead, dying, or stagnant?

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att-note-3-review-11Trust me, I’m just as ready for the next big thing as the next guy, but I have a hard time believing it will come from Samsung. Look what it’s done to Android with its numerous, useless features and bloat. The leaked render from Monday shows a UI which largely resembles the Magazine UX we saw on the NotePRO and TabPRO lineups at CES. And that only lowered my expectations even further.

So what can Samsung and the Tizen Association do to get people interested in and excited for the impending launch of Tizen OS?

Launch a phone already.

BlackBerry’s biggest mistake was suffering endless delays after giving an approximate launch date. Launching a half-baked product is a death wish, too. But the real fumble here was giving a date and missing it.

Sure, unforeseen problems occur and some things are impossible to predict or avoid. But it’s not a difficult concept to grasp: under-promise and over-deliver.

The best thing for Samsung to do at this point is to push forward and raise awareness for what the operating system does differently or better than any existing platform.

Judging by some videos we from October, it’s shaping up to be a lot like a TouchWiz look-a-like, which is unfortunate (and also plays a major role in my indifference towards the OS).

tizen-phoneIf it doesn’t do anything better or differently, then Samsung needs to reevaluate why it’s in the business of making an OS in the first place. No one, especially in the mobile space, wants to see a copycat or uninspired OS. It’s one of the most vicious and difficult markets to break into, and Samsung’s weight isn’t enough to earn it a pass.

People buy into Samsung’s smartphones because they are some of the best, not because the software is great or mind-blowing. Far from it.

If the leaked render and October video are any indication of the direction of Tizen, Samsung may have a hard time gaining any traction on its own. It sorely needs differentiation – and not to be different for the sake of being different, but different for the sake of being better, more efficient, more user-friendly, or cooler.

To be more concise, Samsung needs to use Tizen as an opportunity to learn from its mistakes on Android.

I can’t imagine anyone wants a full-blown version of TouchWiz or Magazine UX, with no hint of Android in sight. And I can’t imagine developers will want to add another similar (yet different) OS to their long list of to-dos.

I’ll keep my eyes peeled and fingers crossed for something more promising at Mobile World Congress, but I’m certainly managing my expectations.

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition.| Google+