The Opposing View: How Tizen Could Win

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Samsung expanded the horizons of wearable computers this month with a trio of fitness-oriented smartwatches running two different operating systems—neither of which is Android.

Two of the three, the Samsung Gear 2 and Gear Neo 2, run the open(ish)-source, Linux-based Tizen operating system. The other, a fitness tracker named the Samsung Gear Fit, uses a customized version of the Real Time Operating System (RTOS), a lightweight OS designed to run so quickly and use so little computing power it can be embedded inside Qualcomm baseband processors.

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The most notable thing about the smartwatches isn’t their size or design—it’s their use of an operating system that Samsung designed in-house, and gave all the bells and whistles of Android.

As pointed out before, Tizen doesn’t have the rich ecosystem of apps and utilities available for Android and iOS. On a functional level, however, it greatly resembles its Android cousin, with screens of apps connected to a variety of functions. Samsung has already announced plans to put Tizen on future versions of its Galaxy phones and Note phablets; Samsun CEO J.K. Shin has said he wants to see Tizen on the rest of the company’s product lines as well, according to Business Insider.

Most Samsung users probably wouldn’t want to switch, but Tizen looks and acts so much like Android that Samsung could “update” Android to Tizen and “most customers would not notice,” according to Business Insider writer Jim Edwards. (What Samsung couldn’t do is instantly persuade hundreds of thousands of developers to expand their list of iOS and Android apps to include Tizen—it would be better off figuring out how to make the side-loading of Android apps onto Tizen as painless as possible.)

In theory, taking a third of the world’s smartphone users away from Google or Apple and putting them into the hands of a coalition whose business and development interests are completely different from those of the current mobile-OS-market leaders would have almost as dramatic an effect on the market as if Google and Apple had decided to jump the broom, merge their OSes and dominate the mobile-computing world as a couple.

The dexterity with which Samsung has developed and deployed Tizen as an Android alternative suggests that Google or Apple could one day face the birth of a third superpower in the market for wearable and mobile computers.

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Image: Samsung