As mobile platform owners vie for dominance in the smartphone and tablet market, smaller players will need to find a way to beef up their capabilities. But with big names like Samsung and Intel joining forces to launch a new smartphone operating system, do they stand a chance against dominant mobile platforms from Apple and Google?
Open Source, Open Standards
The LiMo Foundation and Linux Foundation have recently announced a new partnership to develop a mobile operating system merging their LiMo and MeeGo platforms. Dubbed "Tizen," the new OS platform is a Linux-derived operating system not unlike Android, with which it plans to compete. However, Tizen will attempt to mitigate the copyright (and copyleft) issues that have been hounding Android, due to its use of certain copyrighted Linux libraries. Tizen will also focus on emerging open standards in delivering applications and content, particualrly HTML5.
Intel and Samsung Electronics will be the lead developers, focusing their efforts in merging their respective platforms. Aside from the two partners, the project is also supported by stakeholders from the Linux community and mobile manufacturers. The Linux Foundation will host the Tizen initiative, while manufacturers and mobile networks ACCESS, Panasonic, NEC Casio, NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, Telefonica and Vodafone have also pledged support.
Is There Room For One More?
Today's smartphone landscape is dominated by Apple's iOS and Google's Android, both of which run on smartphones and tablets. Apple's platform is locked into its own hardware, but Google's Android is an open platform licensed to manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and the like. Recently, however, Android has been target of proxy legal attacks by Apple, which has been entrenched in patent infringement disputes with Samsung Electronics in four continents to date.
Intel, meanwhile, has its MeeGo platform, which was co-developed with Nokia. With Nokia making the drastic decision to partner with Microsoft for its Windows Phone 7 platform, however, Intel has been seeking out potential partners for MeeGo. And with Samsung announcing that it was considering developing a new smartphone OS from scratch, the two companies appear to be likely partners in this new venture.
Can Tizen Challenge Dominant Players?
The question now is the timeliness of developing a mobile platform amid major OSes already dominating the field. Other major manufacturers have decided to bow out from the game, citing stiff competition. HP announced plans to spin off its PC division along with its webOS smartphone and tablet platform. Meanwhile, Nokia's own switch to Windows Phone is indicative of how battle lines will be drawn moving forward.
Further, even Microsoft's own Windows Phone platform is predicted to dominate certain segments of the market in a few years' time, if it performs as expected. For Tizen to stand a chance, it will require an active developer community, strong technologies, and a good value proposition for consumers. Without all these, it will be just like platforms such as webOS or Symbian, which are great technologies in themselves, but lost traction somewhere along the way.
The LiMo and Linux Foundations expect to launch Tizen by 1Q 2012, along with its SDK, while mobile manufacturers are likely to launch devices by mid-2012.