Tizen: We Can Be the OS of the IoT

Carl Weinschenk
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Ten Top Tech Trends to Watch in 2014

The two dominant mobile operating systems are Android and iOS, of course. BlackBerry and Windows Phone are right behind. The third level of mobile OSes consists of lesser-known platforms such as Jolla’s Sailfish, Tizen, the Firefox OS and Ubuntu Touch.

Tizen is front and center. The mobile operating system, according to its website, “resides within” the Linux Foundation. It is driven by a Technical Steering Group that features Intel and Samsung.

Last week, Tizen added 37 development partners. The news was made in advance of The Tizen Developer Conference, which was held this week in San Francisco. The headliner at the conference was the news that Samsung is set to release the first Tizen-driven smartphone, the Samsung Z, initially into the Russian market. Newsfactor reports that the device features a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen, a fingerprint sensor and a 2.3 GHz quad-core processor.

Samsung claims it offers fast start-up, multitasking capabilities, smooth scrolling and good Web image rendering, according to Newsfactor. In the future, the Samsung Z will support OpenMobile ACL. This will enable Android apps to run on the device. Greenbot offers a close look at the Samsung Z device, which seemed to garner good reviews from various phone sites.

A first use of an OS in a phone is an attention-grabber, especially when Samsung is the vendor. Perhaps an even more interesting and significant theme from the conference, however, is the idea that Tizen is being positioned as the OS underlying the Internet of Things (IoT).

InformationWeek draws a distinction between Tizen, which is Web-based, and approaches that use purpose-built “native approaches. It seems to be an important choice for the IoT. The need is clear for a standardized platform to support the millions and eventually billions of massively disparate devices and functions that will call the IoT home. The nature of that operating system is vital.

Thomas Claburn, who wrote the InformationWeek piece, suggests that it may come down to a native versus open issue. What is clear is that lots of money and influence rides upon the evolution of the IoT OS:

In part, web technology has lagged because platform leaders have more to gain by advancing the native development, which they control, than they do by advancing the capabilities of an open platform. But among companies that don't control established native development platforms -- Intel, Mozilla, and Samsung, among others -- web technology is ready for prime time.

The key idea is that prime time may be purposefully timed to coincide with the expansion of the IoT, which potentially is so pervasive that the winner in that arena by definition is a big player. The coverage of the Tizen Developer Conference suggested that it is taking on Google and Apple, and that the IoT will be the battlefield.

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