Days after Samsung introduced a Tizen OS-based smartphone, a UK-based analyst declared the operating system a non-starter, despite its backing by a consortium of heavyweights including Intel, Samsung and LG Electronics.
"Is Tizen going anywhere? In a word, no," wrote Andrew Sheehy, chief analyst for Generator Research in an online research report.
To support his view, Sheehy said the OS is five years behind Google's Android and Apple's iOS and has the support of only a small cadre of developers compared to the millions writing applications for Android and iOS. "Watching Tizen's development is like watching a car crash in slow motion," he wrote.
In comments to Computerworld , he added, "As far as a viable alternative to Android, Tizen is dead in the water."
Samsung showed the new Tizen OS-based Samsung Z, a 4.8-in. display smartphone, due to ship in the third quarter, at the third annual Tizen Developer Conference held last week in San Francisco. About 600 Tizen developers attended the conference in San Francisco, compared to the 6,000 attending the Apple WWDC the day before, Sheehy noted. And Apple has 9 million registered developers, according to CEO Tim Cook.
It "will be a lot harder [to] attract a critical mass of developers" to Tizen, Sheehy wrote.
In an email to Computerworld, Sheehy also said that Samsung may be particularly vulnerable with Tizen's expected demise.
Seoul, Korea-based Samsung started shipping the Tizen-based Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches in April. Some analysts have said Samsung's interest in Tizen comes out of the company's desire to gradually separate itself from Android and Google in order to build its own ecosystem of apps and services atop of its own hardware instead of relying on Google for apps and services. Even though Samsung is clearly seeking alternatives to Android, it makes the biggest number of Android smartphones sold globally of any vendor.
"Samsung will eventually have to accept that it needs to find a way of working either with the existing market structure or around it" with the demise of Tizen, Sheehy said. "For all its technical brilliance, its incredibly fast product development, brand equity and global distribution, Samsung's soft underbelly is software. Software will become increasingly important as the market develops and is where Google is way out in front."
Asked to respond, a Samsung spokeswoman said the company "is declining to comment" on Sheehy's remarks.
Sheehy is not alone in his view on Tizen, although other analysts have not been as definitive in their condemnation.
Analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates, said the chances that Tizen will grow and become important in devices are "slim to none." Tizen "may have a niche play in non-mainstream devices like TVs and appliances, but as a general purpose OS for phones, tablets, and PC's, it won't be a force in the market at all," he said.
Some application developers said they were been excited to see Tizen on smartwatches and other devices in an evolving Internet of Things world. Monica Lam, who is on leave as a computer science professor at Stanford University and is also CEO of start-up MobiSocial, said in an interview that many devices can't accommodate the processing power required for a full Android phone, and need an efficient OS like Tizen. Lam delivered a keynote at the recent Tizen conference.
Lam's company built Omlet, an open and programmable messaging platform that can run on the Gear 2 and the Android-based Galaxy S5 smartphone, as well as the $99 Asus Zen smartphone, which uses an Intel processor. Lam said she hopes Omlet can be used in cars and wearables that rely on Tizen.
The relatively new Tizen Association, an industry consortium supporting the mobile OS, has defended the fledgling OS since last November, and recently announced it has 88 partner organizations and companies, after adding 37 more in May. In a statement from May, Tizen Association board member Ryoichi Sugimura from Japanese carrier NTT Docomo, said the group continues to attract support from "some of the most innovative players in the connected device ecosystem." The enthusiasm from supporters is greatest from app developers, he added.
The association and Intel didn't respond immediately when asked to comment on Sheehy's attack.
Sheehy said his analyst firm has no commercial relationship with either Apple or Google and he holds no shares in either company. Noting the firm recently published a report that was harsh on Google, he added, "We're not Google fan boys."
Sheehy also admitted that Generator is not always as opinionated as it was about Tizen's dismal future, but added, "in cases like this where it's clear to us what's happening, then why not tell it as it is?"
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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