Apple Carrier Partner Waffles on Samsung-Backed Tizen Smartphone

Japan

Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo (NYSE:DCM) recently announced that it was delaying the release of a Tizen-powered smartphone, in what is widely regarded as a setback for Samsung (SSNLF.PK), reports Business Korea. Tizen is a Samsung-backed open source mobile operating platform that the Korea-based company is hoping to eventually use as a replacement for Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android.

According to Japan’s SankeiBiz, NTT DoCoMo has attributed the postponement to “environmental changes in the mobile market.” Some industry watchers believe this is a cryptic reference to the carrier’s recent success with Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone.

As recently reported by Bloomberg, NTT DoCoMo recently surpassed Japan’s two other major carriers for the highest number of new subscriber additions for the first time since December 2011. NTT DoCoMo spokesperson Hiroko Shimoyama attributed the company’s recent gains to the addition of Apple’s iPhone. Before finally signing a distribution deal with Apple in September of 2013, NTT DoCoMo had been lagging its competitors in monthly subscription additions for almost two years as it focused on promoting Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) Xperia A and Samsung’s Galaxy S4.

According to Business Korea, NTT DoCoMo may have put off releasing the Tizen smartphone because its marketing period would overlap with the recently acquired iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. A high-ranking NTT DoCoMo official quoted by SanKeiBiz even suggested that the carrier was no longer interested in the Tizen OS. “The release date is up in the air for now, and the project itself may be canceled,” said the unnamed official via Business Korea.

Despite the speculation, NTT Docomo denied that its decision was related to its recent distribution deal with Apple. However, DoCoMo spokesperson So Hiroki told the Wall Street Journal that, “The market is not big enough to support three operating systems at this time.”

The Tizen operating system will still be featured at the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that kicks off on February 24. However, it may be harder for the nascent OS to become a viable platform without the inclusion of NTT DoCoMo. As noted by Business Korea, the Japanese carrier was considered the “most proactive member of the [Tizen] alliance.”

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