Samsung sells more Android-running smartphones than anyone, but the manufacturer has a handful of operating systems in its arsenal, and at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, it shared that it has new plans for Bada, its in-house OS that it introduced in late 2009.
“We have an effort that will merge Bada and Tizen,” Tae-Jin Kang, senior vice president of Samsung’s Content Planning Team, told Forbes’ Elizabeth Woyke, who writes that, once complete, Tizen will support applications written for Bada and even be backward-compatible to already-published Bada applications. The goal is that developers who know Bada will be instantly comfortable designing in Tizen.
The Linux Foundation introduced Tizen in Sept. 2011, with hopes of the first Tizen-running devices-which will eventually include smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, netbooks and even in-vehicle systems-emerging during the first quarter of 2012.
Adding to the Tizen-Bada cocktail, Tizen has roots in MeeGo, the OS that Intel was pursuing with Nokia before Nokia made the switch from Symbian to Windows Phone. As Imad Sousou explained on the MeeGo blog at the time of Tizen’s introduction, the OS is based on HTML5, which he believes is the future of mobile.
“Shifting to HTML5 doesn’t just mean slapping a Web runtime on an existing Linux, even one aimed at mobile, as MeeGo has been,” Sousou wrote, explaining the decision to move to Tizen instead of evolving MeeGo. “Emphasizing HTML5 means that APIs not visible to HTML5 programmers need not be as rigid, and can evolve with platform technology and can vary by market segment.”
Some have opined that Samsung may be interested in having the Tizen-Bada nest egg, should its relationship with the patent-strained Google sour. However, Samsung’s strategy may be more about using the new OS duo as a way to upgrade feature phone users, of which there are still plenty, to smartphones-much as it first suggested when it introduced Bada, which means “ocean” in Korean, suggesting the vastness of opportunity and potential it saw in the OS.
Research firm Strategy Analytics has forecast HTML5-based phones-which it defines as handsets with full or partial support for HTML5 technology in the browser, such as the Apple iPhone 4S-to rise from 336 million units in 2011 to 1 billion units in 2013.
“HTML5 will be a pivotal technology in the growth of a multi-screen, 4G LTE [Long-Term Evolution] cloud that is emerging for mobile operators, device makers, car manufacturers, component vendors and Web app developers,” Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston said in a Dec. 7 statement. “With its potential to transcend some of the barriers faced by native apps, such as cross-platform usability, HTML5 is a market that no mobile stakeholder can afford to ignore.”
Indeed, Microsoft is now on-board, and Adobe, in a major about-face last November, announced it was halting the development of Flash mobile browsers, citing HTML5 as the best new solution for creating and deploying mobile content. Despite the relative newness of the platform, a December Evans Data survey found 43 percent of developers in North America already using HTML5, along with 39 percent of developers in the EMEA, or Europe, Middle East and Africa, region and 58 percent in the Asia-Pacific region.
Still, Strategy Analytics warned that it would take years of development and standards-setting before HTML5 “can fully mature to reach its potential as a unified, multi-platform content-enabler.” Perhaps, that’s a journey that Tizen will help to speed along.