The Twisted Tale of Tizen Mobile OS

A new OS, Tizen, backed by Intel and Samsung is hoping to gain a foothold in the software side of the mobile computing device market. Here’s the twisted tale of the Tizen mobile OS.


A new OS has been in development since the start of 2012, backed by two major hardware technology companies – Intel and Samsung -- hoping to gain a foothold in the software side of the mobile computing device market: Tizen. Here’s the twisted tale of the Tizen mobile OS.


The birth of Tizen

Tizen is a free and open-source OS primarily for smartphones and tablets, but is being designed for use on other mobile devices including GPS navigators, in-car entertainment systems, and netbooks. It will also be for smart TVs. So the companies behind Tizen aim to go after many of the same device markets that Google has been selling their Android OS to. An alpha of the Tizen OS source code was released on Jan. 5, 2012, and Version 1.0 came out on April 30.


Convoluted family tree

Tizen has a convoluted pedigree: It’s the successor of three abandoned mobile OS projects -- most of them never even reached a final release stage. Overall, Tizen is a combination of Moblin, which was originally created by Intel, and Maemo, created by Nokia. It also re-uses technology from MeeGo, such as its network management. MeeGo, cancelled in September 2011, was originally started by Intel and Nokia.


Linux in its DNA

Like Android, Tizen runs atop the Linux kernel, and its software framework is built with HTML5; apps for it will be written in the web-based language to help make development for it easier and compatible across other platforms based on HTML5. The Tizen SDK is comprised of web-based APIs. Tizen is being designed for devices running ARM or x86 processors.


Adopted by Intel and Samsung

Tizen is a joint-development effort by Intel and Samsung. The two companies are members of the Tizen Association, which represents the OS in the industry, and includes 10 more technology companies. On the developer side of the equation, Tizen is supported by the Linux Foundation. Sprint Nextel joined the Tizen Association and intends to include and offer for sale devices running this OS on its network.


Tizen finds a home

In January, screenshots of a very early build of the Tizen OS running on a Samsung smartphone called the I9500 were leaked. On May 8, Samsung revealed a developer device, which appeared to be the I9500, running Tizen -- this phone has a 4.3-inch screen and reportedly ran on a dual-core ARM-based 1.2 GHz processor. On May 14, Samsung demonstrated Tizen at a news event -- this time on a Galaxy S II HD LTE. As of this writing, no company has announced when they will release a Tizen device.


Compatible with cousin Android?

Open Mobile has developed an Application Compatibility Layer that allows Tizen to run Android apps. And the company has made the lofty claim that its technology will do this with 100% compatibility, as if the apps are running on the Google OS. We’re dubious, since other companies that have been developing such software to run Android on other platforms, like the impressive BlueStacks, have trouble presenting a flawless experience.


Family feud

The screenshots of Tizen that were leaked reveal a UI resembling a simplified looking version of Android. There’s a main home screen where you tap on icons of apps to launch them, a phone dialer, system settings menu which includes network functions, task switcher, wallpaper selector, and web browser.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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