Asia Takes On Android
Android's dominance of the handset operating system (OS) market is being challenged on two fronts from Asia-Pacific.
The Google-backed platform powered 80% of all smartphones shipped in Q1, and boasts 1.24 million apps in the Google Play store.
But Samsung, which has become the world's biggest smartphone supplier by deploying Android, is hedging its bets by developing its own multi-device OS, Tizen, designed for smartphones, watches, TVs, and connected cars.
The aim is to lessen Samsung's dependence on the Android system, which mandates use of Google search and mapping apps. But Samsung is being careful not to directly confront Google: The new phone will initially be launched during the third quarter in Russia, away from the direct gaze of Google and the global media.
It's a slightly awkward sell. If the new device offers "innovation that is both personal and unique" to consumers' needs, as DJ Lee, president of Samsung sales and marketing, suggests, then punters may wonder what it has been selling up to now.
IDC analyst Francisco Jeronimo believes Tizen offers no additional value, and no reason to switch from Android.
Tizen, which is Linux-based like Android, is Samsung's second attempt at an OS. Its first, Bada, has folded into the new platform.
But Samsung bosses aren't the only ones hoping to leverage their hardware dominance to put some space between themselves and Android.
Officials in China, which has some 300 million Android users, are having similar thoughts.
A senior government-affiliated researcher has predicted the country will have its own operating system within "three to five years."
Ni Guangnan, from the China Academy of Engineers, says the reliance on operating systems from US companies is an information security risk for China, and called for the creation of an "indigenous, controllable mobile operating system."
Ni even points to a government ban on Windows 8 as an "opportunity for Chinese OS development."
Authorities have not given a reason for the prohibition on upgrading government computers to the new Windows system, but it is seen widely seen as part of a crackdown on foreign IT suppliers as part of the US-China battle over cyber-security.
However, while Ni said he believed the "sinification" of Android would happen inevitably over the coming years, he did not cite any specific software projects could lead the way to a national OS.
China's attempt at its own version of Linux, a state-owned business called Red Flag, collapsed in February owing staff back pay.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading