Tizen OS for Smartphones – Intel’s Biggest Bet Yet
|Figure 1: Intel and the Linux Foundation collaborated on Tizen, an open source HTML5-based platform for smartphones, IVI, and other embedded devices.|
Samsung hedges Apple, Google bets with Intel’s HTML5-based Tizen
Just when you thought the smartphone OS market was down to a choice between iOS and Android, Intel-backed Tizen jumps into the fray (Figure 1). Tizen is Intel’s next kick at the can for mobile, and it’s joining several OS wannabes: Microsoft Windows Phone 8, RIM Blackberry’s whatever-they’re-going-to-announce on 31 January 2013, and eventually Ubuntu phone platform.
Samsung Prepares to “Date” Other Partners
|Figure 2: On 3 January 2013 Ubuntu announced a plan to offer a smartphone OS. Key feature: use the phone as a computing platform and even drive a desktop monitor.|
Samsung Electronics announced on 3 January that it will start selling smartphones sometime this year using Tizen as the OS platform. Samsung’s spokesperson didn’t elaborate on timing or models, but said in an emailed statement ”We plan to release new, competitive Tizen devices…and keep expanding the lineup.”
Tizen is the third incarnation of Intel’s attempts at building an embedded ecosystem which included MeeGo and Moblin. Tizen, in collaboration with The Linux Foundation, was announced mid-2011 and has been quietly gestating in the background and is now on Release 2.0. One of the largest supporters of Tizen is Samsung, so the recent announcement is no surprise.
Samsung no doubt seeks a back-up plan as Google’s Android OS has flown past Apple’s iOS as the predominant operating system for mobile devices plus tablets (75%; Figure 3).
|Figure 3: Android is now the predominant smartphone OS in 2012, according to IDC. (Source: IDC; http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS23818212 ).|
As Samsung is now the world’s largest smartphone supplier (Figure 4), the company might be following a play from Apple in seeking to control more of its own destiny through Tizen.
|Figure 4: IC Insights – and most other analyst firms – rank Samsung as the world’s largest smartphone supplier. This data is from 28 November 2012.(Source: IC Insights; http://www.icinsights.com/news/bulletins/Samsung-And-Apple-Set-To-Dominate-2012-Smartphone-Market/)|
And with Samsung and Apple’s patent dispute nastiness, along with rumblings over whether Samsung may or may not continue to supply processors for iPhones, Tizen represents one more way for Samsung to control their own destiny separate from Google and Apple.
Intel’s Mobile Imperative Needs HTML5
Intel, on the other hand, desperately needs more wins in the mobile space. Last year I blogged how the company gained some traction by announcing several Atom (Medfield) SoC-based handset wins, but the company has gone on record stating their real goal is to be inside mobile devices from Apple, Samsung or both. In fact, it’s a bet-the-farm play for Intel and it most likely pushed Intel CEO Paul Otellini into his future retirement plans.
The general embedded market is closely following what happens in mobile, adopting low-power ARM SoCs and Atom CPUs, using wireless Wi-Fi and NFC radios for M2M nodes, and deploying Android for both headed and headless systems such as POS and digital signage. If Tizen moves the needle in smartphones for Samsung, chances are it’ll be used by other players. With HTML5, it will be straightforward to port applications and data across hardware platforms – a goal that Intel’s EVP Renee James touted at 2012′s Intel Developers Forum (Figure 5).
|Figure 5: Intel’s Renee James is betting on HTML5 in Tizen to kickstart transparent computing. (Image taken by author at IDF 2012.)|
Tizen is based upon HTML5 with plans to achieve the old Java “write once, run anywhere” promise. For Intel, the Tizen SDK and API means that applications written for the most popular mobile processors – such as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon or nVidia’s Tegra 3 – could easily run on Intel processors. In fact, at IDF Intel posited a demo of a user’s application running first on a home PC, then a smart phone, then a connected in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system, and then finally on an office platform. Intel’s Renee James explained that it matters not what underlying hardware runs the application – HTML5 allows seamless migration across any and all devices.
Tizen Stakes for Intel and Samsung
This pretty much sums up the Tizen vision, both for Intel and for Samsung. Tizen means freedom, as it abstracts the hardware from any application.
If successful, Tizen opens up processor sockets to Intel as mobile vendors swap CPUs. Tizen also allows Samsung to choose any processor, while relying on open source and open standards-based code supported by The Linux Foundation.
Chris A. Ciufo is senior editor for embedded content at Extension Media, which includes the EECatalog print and digital publications and website, Embedded Intel® Solutions, and other related blogs and embedded channels. He has 29 years of embedded technology experience, and has degrees in electrical engineering, and in materials science, emphasizing solid state physics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.