Samsung this week delayed the release of what was expected to be the first smartphone to run its Tizen operating system. Slow developer interest in the platform has caused Samsung to reassess Tizen's future in the marketplace, and the outlook isn't so hot.
Tizen's history has been anything but smooth. The Linux-based platform was born out of the aborted MeeGo platform, which was itself the love child of Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin Linux platforms. None of these individual efforts survived, and the thought was that putting them all together would result in a commercially viable product. Tizen has been under development since 2011. It should have been ready long ago.
Samsung promised we'd see a Tizen phone in late 2013. The date slipped to early 2014, then the middle of 2014. Samsung announced the Z in June and said the device would launch in Russia before the end of the third quarter. In early July, the device failed to appear at a Moscow-based Tizen developer event. At the time, Samsung said it was still working to bulk up the app ecosystem, though the company insisted the device would still arrive on time.
Samsung changed its story Monday. Now the Russian launch of the Z is on hold for an indefinite period. Samsung cited the need to fill up the app store before releasing the device.
The writing on the wall is clear: Developers haven't written enough apps for Tizen.
The reasons are likely many. For starters, Android and iOS each have more than 1 million apps sitting in their respective app stores. Clearly developers are spending plenty of time supporting the world's top two platforms. Even Microsoft has a few hundred thousand apps now for its Windows Phone platform. BlackBerry, too, has a modicum of support with more than 100,000 apps available for the BB10 platform. There are at least four app ecosystems that provide developers with a better chance of earning some cold, hard cash.
Tizen is a complete unknown and it boils down to the chicken-egg problem: Why should developers support a product that has been delayed half a year or more, and why should Samsung make a product that doesn't have the necessary developer support?
Samsung has not killed Tizen off entirely yet, nor has it officially canceled the Z. However, this week's delay tells us all we need to know. The mobile marketplace has all the platforms it needs right now, and all the apps to support them. With Android L and iOS 8 scheduled for release this fall, developers have plenty of meaty code with which to work.