By Barry Levine / Mobile Tech Today. Updated February 19, 2013.
Move over Windows Phone, Ubuntu, and BlackBerry, and make room for another contender for the third -- or fourth -- major mobile platform. Intel and Samsung have released the software development kit (SDK) and source code for version 2.0 of their Tizen operating system.
Version 1.0 of the companies' open source OS was released in April, and the 2.0 alpha was out in September. The most prominent new features in this full release of 2.0 are an HTML5 application programming interface and a new native framework, intended to assist third-party developers in the all-important task of creating a massive library of apps.
The SDK and APIs allow developers to use HTML5 technologies in creating cross-platform applications, and they could be significant selling points to developers. The Tizen Association, an industry organization established to support the new platform, notes that, in a test of HTML5 compatibility at HTML5test.com, the Tizen 2.0 mobile browser scored 485 out of a maximum of 500 points.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst for Reticle Research, said Tizen had "some opportunity" to gain a foothold because "there's a lot of customization opportunities" for carriers and phone makers. But, he added, it would be difficult to create a large enough library of apps for a new platform, "as BlackBerry and Microsoft have learned."
In addition to the position of its parents -- the world's largest chip maker and the world's largest handset maker -- the OS is being supported by a variety of other device makers, as well as mobile carriers. Members of the Tizen Association's Board of Directors include Huawei, recently named fourth-largest smartphone maker in one industry report, NEC, Fujitsu, NTT Docomo, Orange, Panasonic, SK Telecom, KT, Sprint and Vodafone.
Samsung, NTT Docomo Phones
Tizen is being targeted at tablets, car-based systems and smart TVs, as well as at smartphones. The Tizen project itself, based on Linux, is housed within the Linux Foundation, and the Technical Steering Group is the primary decision-making organization.
A recent report by Bloomberg News indicated that Samsung is planning to launch Tizen-based phones sometime this year. One reason is thought to be Samsung's interest in decreasing its reliance on the biggest mobile platform, Google's open source Android, especially since Google now owns a hardware competitor Motorola Mobility. A Japanese newspaper has reported that NTT Docomo, the largest mobile provider in Japan, is also expecting to launch at least one Tizen phone in 2013.
While Android and Apple's iOS are way out in front as the first- and second-largest mobile platforms, auditioning is now taking place for the third spot. BlackBerry, formerly known as Research In Motion, recently launched its BlackBerry 10 platform and the first two BB10 devices, and Microsoft's Windows Phone is struggling to get out of single digits for market share.
But there's also another emerging open source OS, Canonical's mobile Ubuntu. In addition to its emphasis on cross-platform HTML5 apps and its innovative approach to screen design, mobile Ubuntu is promoting itself as a platform that works across all device types -- laptops, tablets and even TVs, in addition to smartphones.