The last we heard about Samsung's upcoming mobile operating system Tizen, the company was planning to reveal devices just one day before Mobile World Congress 2014. Prior to that, sources indicated that the first Tizen phone was slated for 3Q 2013, but Samsung co-CEO JK Shin pushed back its release so that the company can get both the hardware and software perfect.
Unnamed sources now report that NTT DoCoMo, Japan's biggest telecommunications operator, was set to reveal a Tizen phone on its network in mid-January. Even the company's president, Kaoru Kato, rehearsed his presentation over the last month. But on the day the phone was supposed to go live, DoCoMo pulled the plug and shelved its plans.
So what happened? Two weeks later Kato told investors during DoCoMo's quarterly earnings call that Tizen will continue to be an extremely important platform, but for now the company plans to watch global market trends to decide on a launch.
DoCoMo isn't the only company that's sitting on the sidelines. Here in the States, Sprint joined the Tizen Association back in 2012, but exited in 2013 to focus its resources on "more immediate product launches," according to sources. Spain's Telefónica also exited the association as did France's Orange SA.
Orange actually planned to launch a phone alongside DoCoMo in January, but a spokesperson for Orange said that Tizen "is not as mature as we may have expected at this point." Currently, there are no plans to include a Tizen phones in its roadmap.
In addition to troubles with carriers, Samsung may be having difficulty attracting large developers as well. To attract them to the upcoming platform, the company held a developers conference in San Francisco back in October 2013, and then another one in Seoul a month later. Samsung and Intel are also sponsoring a contest for Tizen developers, offering $4 million in prizes.
But even with a cash reserve of $50 billion to help Tizen developers, sources claim that most of the app developers that cash in on Android and iOS just aren't interested in the platform, even with cash incentives. For example, the developer of one very famous app, which has made more than $100,000 USD, turned down an offer by Samsung to port the app to Tizen.
Tizen Association Chairman Roy Sugimura said in an interview that software developers just care about the number of mobile phones on the market. "Such an attitude makes it very difficult for Tizen to get approval because right now there are no users," he said.
The Tizen platform had around 6,000 apps as of December.
Tizen exists because Google controls Android with an iron fist. Even though the base OS is open source, they don't allow any outside contributions so they steer the project the way they want exclusively. The consequence is that players like Samsung want to tweak the experience, but if they just fork Android they just contribute right back to Googles market dominance and ability to shove them around with control of the Play Store.