Samsung's new Gears give Tizen a lifeline, but smartphones still a no-show

The launch of the Gear 2s can act as a catalyst for others to come out with products, project manager said

Samsung's decision to run Tizen on its next smartwatches is a step in the right direction for the operating system, but whether the company will also put out smartphones remains to be seen.

Tizen struggled last year as Samsung first promised to put out a smartphone running the OS, but then was unable to deliver. For Roy Sugimura, Tizen Association chairman, it was a difficult 12 months he alluded to during an event on the eve of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"To be honest, last year, I heard at least two times that Tizen was dead ... Every time I said, no, no, no," Sugimura said.

On Sunday, the launch of Samsung's Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo made his belief in the OS more credible. The choice of Tizen over Android is a big vote of confidence and a chance for the fledgling OS to show what it can do. Smartwatches are too important for Samsung to pick Tizen over Android to keep the OS afloat.

"We are thrilled to see products, because when it comes down to it open-source projects are a success when they build something, but a commercial success when they sell something. So seeing that second half of it, from open-source project to actual shipping products is critical," said Brian Warner, who manages Tizen for the Linux Foundation.

Warner thinks the launch of the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo can act as a catalyst for other backers of Tizen to come out with products. The OS has from the start been developed to work well on a number of different devices, including, smartphones, cars, TVs and wearables, he said.

That work may have helped make Tizen a better fit for smartwatches, compared to Android.

"I am not going to bag on Android. Android is Linux and we support all that use Linux. But I will say that one of the advantages Tizen has is that it doesn't use Java. The test devices I have seen are blistering fast," Warner said.

Still, with around 1 billion smartphones shipped last year compared to about 1.9 million smartwatches, getting Tizen onto the former is still imperative. The event on Sunday didn't offer much beyond that Samsung is still working on Tizen-based smartphones.

"We are working on it. We will see that product soon, but I can't verify the exact date," said Kwangyeol Jeong, vice president of Samsung's corporate communications team.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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