It’s the mobile operating system that no-one appears to want, yet its supporters continue to push its development and are a long way from throwing in the towel. Far from it, they see a bright future for the HTML5-based OS. Guy Daniels reports.
Larkspur. It’s the common name for the Delphinium flower, the winner of the 1962 Epsom Derby, and the tactical radio system deployed by the British Army from the 1950s to the late 70s. It’s also the new name of the Tizen 1.0 linux-based mobile operating system.
The Tizen steering group has released a full SDK and source codes reader for Tizen 1.0 Larkspur, which they believe will encourage developers to try out the platform. They face an uphill task – even Microsoft appears to be struggling to attract sufficient developers to make its Windows Phone OS a viable and commercially-attractive alternative to Android and Apple’s iOS.
Perhaps following RIM’s lead, when it announced that it guarantee all “suitable” apps would generate at least $10,000 or it would refund developers the difference, Tizen has announced a competition for developers. They’re not guaranteeing revenue – there are no Tizen-powered devices on the market, after all – but they are staging a competition to gauge developer feedback. Here’s how the Tizen website describes its developer contest:
“We want to hear your advice, product feedback, and experiences on writing apps for Tizen devices and build the knowledge base of Tizen.org members. Our judging panel of Tizen experts at Intel will be looking for technical accuracy, relevance, innovation, enthusiasm, community building/reaction, and overall quality of posts.”
Comments from registered members of the Tizen Community must be 100 words or more and should be posted on its blog. Full rules can be read on their website. Prizes are rather modest – $50 gift cards and a desktop PC, courtesy of partner company Intel.
Larkspur offers a number of improvements over the original developer preview that was released at the beginning of the year, including a new simulator for testing Tizen applications on desktop computers. The list of improvements can be found on the Tizen website. The organisation has also made a number of changes related to its community support, including a bug tracker and wiki:
“We believe that these updates and new offerings improve the experience for developers. We are also continuing to work on improvements and additions, and we will be doing frequent updates to the SDK and source code.”
Tizen is an open source, standards-based software platform supported by a surprising number of mobile operators, device manufacturers and component suppliers – foremost being Intel and Samsung. The project is ‘housed’ within the Linux Foundation and is governed by a Technical Steering Group. The Tizen Association has been formed to guide its adoption within the wider ICT industry, and includes Telefonica, Vodafone, Orange and NTT DoCoMo.
Just yesterday, Sprint announced that it has joined the Tizen Association.
Explaining its decision to become the first North American telco to join the group, a Sprint press release included this vague endorsement:
“Sprint continues to support an open mobile ecosystem that enables choice for Sprint customers, and Tizen provides another open and flexible environment for developers to create innovative applications for end users.”
The open-source Tizen is based on HTML5, which its supporters say makes it ideal for implementation across a range of devices – from mobiles and tablets, to smart TVs and in-car systems – as developers can use HTML5 and related web technologies to write applications that run across multiple device segments. The problem with this description, of course, is that it appears to be targeted at everyone and everything. Is a wide approach to market the most sensible move, or should the Tizen team concentrate on carving out a niche market first? After all, this approach failed for Meego…
In fact, Tizen is more of a successor to the Samsung Linux Platform, developed as part of the LiMo operator consortium, and only a few elements of Meego are retained in Tizen. MeeGo itself was an amalgamation of Moblin and Maemo, created in February 2010 out of a merger of Nokia’s Maemo and Intel’s Moblin Linux-based mobile platforms. There is still an independent Meego, but it now lives an orphan Annie life with no sign of a Daddy Warbucks to come to her rescue.
After all the disappointment of MeeGo (and Moblin and Maemo), are developers and telcos ready for another tilt at the open source market? The marcoms activity surrounding Tizen is incredibly lacklustre and low-key, and surely isn’t doing anything to persuade telcos and vendors to start putting their money behind the initiative (and yet Sprint just signed up this week, why?).
At the moment, Tizen looks like a defensive play – one that gives its supporters an alternative solution, should one suddenly be needed in the near future. A lot of this depends on the ongoing patent litigation surrounding Android. There are undoubtedly a lot of people convinced that Tizen has a viable future, but that faith has yet to spread to the industry as a whole. With Intel and particularly Samsung saying very little about Tizen, you have to question their long-term support.
The success of Tizen would appear to be far more important to Intel – it has to be the chip maker’s last chance at creating and owning a viable smartphone OS. Samsung, by contrast, has far more options available – it also develops its own Linux-based Bada platform, is a leading Android handset vendor, and has built several Windows Phone 7 devices.
Maybe Microsoft’s relative failure to (so far) propel the Windows Phone OS into a competitive position against iOS and Android means that Tizen has a glimmer of a chance? But that window (no pun intended) of opportunity is closing fast. We need to see commercial products, fast. If not, Tizen will go the way of its predecessor.
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