Samsung Pins Hopes on Homegrown OS

Samsung Electronics is installing its homegrown operating system Tizen instead of Google's Android in its latest smartwatch to be unveiled in Barcelona next week.

The move appears aimed at reducing its dependence on Google software. Samsung is bolstering cooperation with Google, with the two signing a patent-sharing deal, but it is apparently worried that this locks it into a steely embrace.

A model shows off Samsung’s Galaxy Gear at a fashion show in Milan, Italy in 2013. /Courtesy of Samsung Electronics A model shows off Samsung’s Galaxy Gear at a fashion show in Milan, Italy in 2013. /Courtesy of Samsung Electronics

But the Galaxy Gear 2 is meant to link up with Samsung latest Android smartphone, the Galaxy S5, which is also being unveiled in Barcelona.

◆ Dependence or Cooperation?

Over the last four or five years, Samsung and Google have combined their hardware and software skills to compete with Apple, with Samsung rolling out the Galaxy series of smartphones and Google supplying the Android OS that powers them. They ended up defeating Apple in terms of global sales and market share.

But Samsung found itself in a dilemma. More than 95 percent of Samsung's smartphones now operate on Android, and that could prove a liability if market conditions change to turn the relationship into the kind of dependency that exists in the global PC market, where most manufacturers rely entirely on Microsoft. 

Samsung's solution was Tizen, developed jointly with Intel. Leading mobile operators including SK Telecom, Srpint and Vodafone as well as China's Huawei and Japan's Panasonic and Fujitsu are also playing a part. Samsung essentially hopes to produce a third OS that can compete with Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

◆ Beyond Smartphones

Unlike iOS and Android, Tizen is designed not only for smartphones and tablet PCs but also eventually for anything from TVs and cameras to cars, air conditioners, refrigerators and watches. The first step is to install Tizen on the Galaxy Gear 2.

Yoon Boo-keun, president of consumer electronics at Samsung, told the German press in September last year that a Tizen-based TV will be unveiled next year. Yoon said Samsung plans to create an "ecosystem" connecting all electronic devices with Tizen.

But Tizen has a long way to go. First of all, amassing a pool of apps that can compete with the vast number of apps available for iOS and Android is no easy task. And mobile providers are reluctant to sell Tizen smartphones.

Chung Tai-myoung at Sungkyunkwan University said, "Samsung needs to achieve a huge success with Tizen if it wants the OS to be embraced by mobile providers and smartphone makers."

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 20, 2014 12:51 KST