Tizen: The next big mobile OS?

What’s next in mobile software platforms? This market isn’t standing still, so after Android, BBOS, iOS, Symbian, webOS, and Windows Phone, what will be the next mobile OS to get excited about? How about Tizen?

Tizen is a joint OS development effort, led by Intel and Samsung. It’s got a complex family tree, but this could be an important part of the mobile landscape in a year or two’s time.

Tizen is essentially a merger of LiMo and MeeGo. Whatnow and whosit?

  • LiMo was a non-profit consortium aiming to make a Linux-based smartphone OS; Samsung was one of its founder members, along with NEC, Docomo, Panasonic, and Vodafone.
  • MeeGo has a more complex lineage. It was itself the result of a merger of Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Maemo platforms.
  • Moblin was a separate effort to create a mobile Linux platform, albeit focused on tablets. Being from Intel, it was aimed at the Atom CPU.
  • Maemo was Nokia’s failed effort to make a clean break from the Symbian platform legacy. Its first appearance, in the 2005-vintage Nokia 770 tablet, was entirely unmemorable. The development was hampered from the start by turf wars within Nokia that prevented the OS being used for an actual phone until the 2009-era N900, by which time, its clunky, chunky design, resistive touchscreen, and lack of developer support made it an irrelevance, compared with the iPhone 3GS steamroller.

Phew. In summary, then: Maemo lay with Moblin and begat MeeGo, which lay with LiMo and begat Tizen. Got that?

Anyway, it strikes me that we now live in Interesting Times. Samsung looks to be cooling its relationship with Google’s Android OS.

And this is big deal, because Samsung is now probably the world’s #1 smartphone vendor. If anyone can give a new platform sufficient momentum to cross the chasm, it’s Samsung.

In many ways, Tizen is a more modern OS than iOS or Android — despite its checkered, seven year history. Like the Windows Phone 7 and the new Windows 8 app development environments, it de-emphasizes conventional programming languages for creating apps. Instead, it corrals developers into using HTML5 and other modern web technologies.

We’re expecting to see Tizen break cover at Mobile World Congress in Spain next month. Watch this space.


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