Given Samsung's success with Android-based smartphones over the past couple of years, you might think the South Korean company wouldn't want to rock the boat. But that's not necessarily the case.
Samsung, which offers a broad portfolio of smartphone offerings, stands today as Apple's only real competition in the market. But now Samsung—which sells an estimated 40 percent of all Android smartphones—is making noise about offering phones based on Tizen, the Linux-based OS launched in 2011 to take on Android. Samsung has been a backer of Tizen from the get go.
Recently, the Bloomberg news service reported that Samsung plans to introduce the first Tizen-based handset, a high-end smarphone, later this. Speculation is that more on the way.
According to International Data Corp., Android and Apple's iOS accounted for more than 90 percent of the smartphone market last year. But smartphone makers would love to see more OSes gain traction. One reason is there is a perception about lack of differentiation in Android phones. Another reason is that Google and Android are simply too powerful right now.
For Samsung, banking on Tizen may simply be consistent with the company's strategy to offer a broad portfolio with a little bit of everything to entice consumers. "I think that right now Samsung sees itself as a supermarket that has all the mixes and matches that you might want," said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc.
According to Kay, it's clear that Samsung is following in the footsteps of Apple in trying to control as much of its smartphones as possible. Just as Apple's iPhones and iPads use Apple's proprietary processors, Samsung has its own Exynos processor used in many Galaxy smartphones, though the company is also using Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset for most Galaxy S4s.
ABI Research believes it's unlikely that Samsung will ever abandon Android altogether in favor of Tizen, particularly in light of the large number of Android handsets the company currently offers. According to ABI, Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface, layered on top of Android, could be replicated on Tizen and other OS platforms to provide a consistent user experience across all the manufacturer’s designs.
Indeed, it's difficult to see Samsung ditching altogether a free OS that has helped it go head to head with Apple. But Kay believes it could eventually come to that. "Samsung might want to fork Android and go its own direction and not have Google looking over its shoulder," he said.