Saturday, 20 July 2013

Fun Topic: Heard of Tizen? (Intel and Samsung give you $4 million reasons to care?)

Wanna win $200,000? You can with a Tinzen app! Intel and Samsung are ponying up $4 million+ to make it happen.

As we saw in the previous post about Samsung's OS platform offerings, Tinzen phones are coming to Samsung in Q3 2013. If you've never heard of it, it's Open Source, Linux-based OS that supports SmartPhones, Tablets, TVs and Netbooks. It's the latest competitor to Android and Netbooks, etc. It's part of the Linux Foundation and both Samsung and Intel are main members (read: champions) of the steering group, which also include: 
  • Huawei
  • Intel
  • Orange
  • Panasonic
  • Samsung
  • SK Telecom
  • Sprint
  • Vodafone
  • KT
  • Fujitsu
At first I didn't understand why Samsung (and Intel) would do this, but after reflecting I came up with some 'guesses':

#1 - Intels needs more leverage (over Qualcomm)
The Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset is the hands-down winner for Mobile. If you are familiar with the Intel vs. ARM wars, almost every new Android device today runs ARM. HTC ONE and Samsung S4 run Snapdragon 600 and even Sony Experia ZL run S4 Pro chip. Intel has really has success with the Clover Trail Atom chipset in Android Tablets like Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, not really in phones.
(I think back when I was looking into this because I had ARM-only code in an Android app, I only really saw the ZTE Grand X2 and Orange San Deigo. Later I learned that Motorola Razr i also ran Intel Atom. Bottom line was that I wasn't too worried with only supporting ARM-only Android devices.)
 *IF* Intel can help make Tizen more popular than Android, it may have a better chance at a bigger share of mobile processor market. Current Intel is 12% compared to Qualcomm's 59% for Q1 2013. Intel wants to start to dominate this market because that where they believe the future growth is.
 #2 - Samsung wants ownership/control
At the end of the day, Google owns Android. That means Google will attempt to make friends with all vendors (ie. Nexus One - HTC, Nexus S/Galaxy/10 - Samsung, Nexus 4 - LG, Nexus 7 - Asus). Google owns the Google Play Store and isn't about to give that up (Samsung even went and built their own Samsung Apps). Samsung continues to 'tweak' Android with things like AES and KNOX without actually giving that back to Android community. 
Samsung already has Bada and Linux OS (aka SmartTV) that failed to dominate. If they can merge in Bada investment into Tizen, this seems like good avenue to able to have more influence and control over device OS.
 #3 - Samsung can re-use some Android & Bada Assets/Investments
Tizen can run both Bada and Android apps. Basically it's leveraging something similar to Android Player that BB10 had, but likely more up-to-date out of the box.
This means it's not starting from ground zero for Samsung and it can possibly leverage a large number of it's Java and internal Android assets. 

#4 - Samsung doesn't want to pay royalties (Microsoft)
You might think I'm crazy because Android is free (or most versions), right? Well it turns out that Microsoft is claiming $220 million just this quarter from 'mobile', but cleverly did not break that into Windows Phone vs. Android royalties. If you didn't know, Windows has agreements with everyone but Google Nexus/Motorola for patent royalties in exchange for not suing them. (Ironically the cost for this protection is more than the price for Windows 7 Phone itself. Likely a scheme to drive Windows Phone sales.)
(Note: Some quick math. If IDC says in Q4 2012, Android was 70% of the market, while Windows Phone was only 2.6%. It would be easy to see how you could carve out a good part of the $220 million in royalties quickly from 160 million units of Android phones being sold vs. 6 million Windows Phone sold, *if* assuming numbers in the last quarter were similar.)
So if Samsung and other vendors like Huawei can make an alternative, there may be a way they can get out of this round-about Microsoft royalty. I have no confirmation of this, it's just a theory or suspicion

Ultimately this looks like a no-lose situation. If Tizen works, Samsung and Intel are on the steering group and will likely reap many of the rewards. If not Samsung and Intel both have other avenues to still make money with.

Personally, what I think Tinzen lacks is a good eco-system. The hardest part of monetizing mobile apps is the 'app store'. Apple has a great iTunes AppStore and Google has done an admirable job with Google Play Store (formerly Android Market). 

Right now, there aren't a lot of options once you built your Tizen app to monetize it, however Tizen group claims a Tizen Store will be available sometime in 2013. Apple, Google and BlackBerry are all independent commercial entities. Not sure how Linux Working Group would run a App Store, but maybe that is where the Tizen Association comes in. I guess in a worst case scenario Samsung does have it's own App Store, but long term I don't think they are going to be *only* makers of Tizen devices. 

To contrast Tizen platform to another platform I know well, which is BB10 OS, Blackberry focused heavily on developers. They poured a lot of money into things like BlackBerry World and still claim that BB developers make more than iOS, Android and WinMo:

Did you know that BlackBerry World™ is the most profitable mobile application store for developers? According to Evans Data Corporation, 13% of vendors using BlackBerry World are making over $100,000 which is more than Apple®, Android™ and Windows Mobile.
They ran several BB10 developer conferences, gave away thousands of Dev Alpha A & Bs. Currently on the Dev Alpha Cs. They tried to make it easy to port apps (like Android APKs to BARs and HTML5 via WebWorks) and offered a range of development options. Ran Port-a-thons and lots of BBJAM conferences and even had an ingenious limited edition 12,000 'Red' Z10s reward program, much like KickStarter swag.

So a single contest I think is not enough. Backing from Intel and Samsung and good devices might not be enough. In my mind BB did all that and are still struggling. Time will tell what happens to BB and Tizen.

Hope you found that interesting.

Wayne Pau.

p.s. if you don't think Tizen is real, well you can already get a Cordova (aka PhoneGap) framework ported. Probably one of the quickest ways to get a Tizen app going. 

However if I *had* to build an app today I assume emulator may be the way to do. No Dev Alpha Tizens being given away that I've heard of. There have been a few YouTube vids of BETA devices, one of which you can see here:

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