Tizen Mobile OS

Tizen Mobile (Credit: NDTV)

Samsung is to preview a selection of new Tizen-powered devices later this month.

A press invite sent out by the South Korean company for an event on February 23rd teases an ‘exclusive sneak preview of the newest Tizen devices’. 

Samsung won’t be unveiling devices alone. Several mobile networks are rumoured to be joining the company at the reveal, including LG UPlus, Korea Telecom and SK Telecom – all members of Canonical’s Carrier Advisory Group.

But what has Tizen, despite its Linux connections, got to do with Ubuntu, you ask? It’s all about the wider context.

Tizen Is To Ubuntu What iOS is to Android

Samsung’s Linux-based Tizen OS, created from the ashes of the MeeGo project back in 2011, aims to offer a similar convergent experience to Canonical’s Ubuntu Touch, powering an array of devices – from laptops to in-car computers.

The OS has gone through a tortuous development process, with release dates continually pushed back as shifting goals called for more UI refinements and new features to be added.

It was originally penciled in for a mid-2013 release, with the first smartphone running it expected at the end ofJanuary from Japanese mobile giant NTT DoCoMo. Those plans got the kibosh earlier this month when The Wall Street Journal reported that DoCoMo has puts its Tizen plans on ice, citing the near-impenetrable market share of Android and iOS in Japan – a jaw-dropping 99.1% combined – as chief reason.

The network has since stressed that they haven’t abandoned Tizen entirely, but with no devices forthcoming, it’s difficult to count that as a ‘win’.

‘What Samsung has amassed in OEM and telecom muscle it still lacks in consumer awareness and press attention…’

Tizen is seen by many industry experts as Samsung’s way of gaining a degree of independence from Android, an OS largely out of its control. But, far from being Samsung’s pet project, Tizen has a number of groups and associations that make it a potential mobile tour-de-force, including backing from the Linux Foundation, Intel, and mobile networks like Vodaphone and Sprint.

But what Samsung has amassed in OEM and telecom muscle it still lacks in consumer awareness. Compared to rival upstart OSes like Ubuntu Touch and Jolla’s Sailfish OS, the enthusiasm and perception of Tizen amongst mobile aficionados and the tech press appears weak.

‘It’s a wily plan, and one that may pay off for the floundering OS.’

Press attention is, admittedly, far from being a suitable yardstick of success – see Windows Phone’s slow crawl to notable market share in the US and Europe for proof of that – but there’s no denying that it helps in grabbing a head start.

And so we come back to this ‘exclusive’ unveiling event scheduled a few days before Mobile World Congress 2014 kicks off in Barcelona, Spain.

In preempting MWC Samsung will be crossing every possible appendage that Tizen can ambush a press already primed with anticipation. It’s a wily plan, and one that may pay off for the floundering OS.

 But, with Canonical among the many companies expected to make similar announcements the following week, it remains to be seen if any momentum snatched in advance can be maintained going forward.