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February 26, 2014

Tizen lacking clout at Mobile World Congress

Samsung is playing it safe by sticking with Tizen-powered smartwatches.

By Ben Sullivan

Tizen, the Android-alternative operating system, has gone through Mobile World Congress barely uttering a whisper – even its stand was fairly hard to track down, right at the back hall of the conference centre, far away from should-be rivals like Firefox and parent firm Samsung.

This is despite the operating system running on the newly announced Samsung Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, both shipping from April.

There were no smartphone announcements, or even rumours, so it would seem Tizen just isn’t ready enough yet for Samsung.

The Korean giant, which this week announced its new flagship, the Galaxy S5, is playing it safe for now by only sticking Tizen on the smartwatches so as to continue support for the OS but only give it limited headroom, negating the risk of a failure. The lack of apps and functionality doesn’t affect Tizen on the smartwatches, where existing apps have no place and new apps would have had to have been created.

Many times last year were we promised Tizen handsets, with Samsung and Orange declaring their release by the end of 2013, with Samsung then saying a Tizen smartphone will come by February 2014. It didn’t. A Tizen representative told CBR that we will see more Tizen devices this year, but launch dates are not known.

Speaking to CNET at Mobile World Congress, Young-hee Lee, Samsung’s head of marketing for mobile said: "We are carefully evaluating the market needs and opportunity to introduce the Tizen-based smartphone this year."

It was only in January when Japanese firm NTT DoCoMo dropped its plans to release a Tizen handset.

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“We’re revising our plan to release it this fiscal year, but haven’t decided to abandon it," said Jun Ootori, a spokesman for the Japanese telecommunications firm.

"The conditions surrounding the Japanese smartphone market and the timing aren’t good right now," he added. "We haven’t decided anything about the future but we are working with members of the (Tizen) association. We haven’t decided on a launch."

It’s not likely that Samsung has dropped the idea of using Tizen altogether, but rather repurposed it for use its smartwatches. Tizen already appears on Samsung’s NX300M smart camera, and Jaguar and Land Rover car manufacturers are looking into using Tizen on their smart solutions for driving this year. With this in mind, we may not get a Tizen phone after all, but Samsung still may have something quietly planned for the operating system.

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