Here comes Tizen! Samsung to host its first developer conference in October

Focus of Samsung Developers Conference could be on Tizen OS, not Android, and on building apps for unique Samsung utilities

Samsung is the largest maker of Android smartphones, which make up up 70% of the overall worldwide smartphone market. Now the company's dependence on Android seems poised to start shifting to the open source Tizen OS.

On Tuesday, Samsung announced plans to hold its first developer conference from Oct.27-29 in San Francisco, where developers can "learn about Samsung tools and SDKs [software developer kits]."

A spokeswoman said the event will be "cross-platform, cross-product," meaning that it will cover more than just the Android OS and smartphones that run it.

Analysts suggested the conference is likely to highlight Samsung's interest in Tizen (which is backed by Intel) as well as in tablets -- as well as other computers or browsers that could run inside kitchen appliances made by Samsung.

Samsung is a latecomer to the list of developer conference host companies -- Apple, Google, Microsoft, BlackBerry and others already do so.

Samsung's focus on Android appeared to start waning in March, when the company announced the Galaxy S4 smartphone without much mention of Android. Shortly thereafter, Samsung announced that it would soon produce a high-end Tizen-based smartphone to be released in August or September.

It's been clear for a while that Samsung has wanted more control over the operating system used in its phones, especially since Android developer Google bought smartphone maker Motorola. That move prompted concerns that Google would make Motorola its favored maker of Android smartphones.

The Samsung Developers Conference appears to be an opportunity for Samsung to plant a flag for its own central role as a maker of hardware, software and user experiences inside of smartphones and other products, analysts said.

"Does Samsung want to create its own ecosystem? Yes," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

"Having a unique dev conference makes sense, as Samsung wants to push their own identity to further establish itself as the premiere challenger in assuming the leading market position for phones and tablets. And, they want to push their possible advantages in hardware as well, which could differentiate them from the Android pack," Gold added.

The new devcon "is an indicator that Samsung wants to distinguish themselves from vanilla Android," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "One way they are attempting to do this is through their Knox [mobile management] effort for the enterprise. In the future, focused developers could make a transition to Tizen more successful."

Knox was first announced in February at the Mobile World Congress. At the time, a Samsung official called Android fragmented because of the different versions appearing on the various Android-based devices made by multiple vendors.

News site Android Authority has postulated that Samsung's novel utilities such as the S-Pen digital stylus and multi-window functionality are in need of more developers to build more specialized apps -- a clear reason for a developer conference. Also, Samsung could seek developers for its reported plan to develop a smartwatch or so-called smart glasses.

Samsung has at least three SDK's that might be on the conference agenda, Android Authority suggested. They include All Share for linking devices wirelessly, as well as the S-Pen SDK and a Bluetooth Low Energy SDK.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi noticed that the announcement of Samsung's developer conference precedes the formal unveiling of the high-end Tizen smartphone first mentioned in March. "I see this [developer event] as preparing for Tizen. It certainly looks like Samsung is going all the way," she said.

"So far, you have seen Samsung building a layer on top of Android from the UI to apps and services, and now they will wrap it all up with a dev conference," Milanesi added. "I wonder if they hope that when it is all in place that they can just move over to Tizen [from Android] and no one will notice the difference?"

She questioned whether Samsung might be trying to make the operating system "just an engine inside that doesn't really matter." But she added: "I remain skeptical that consumers will buy that."

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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