Why Is Samsung Making a Non-Android Smartphone?

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Samsung (SSNLF.PK) may use Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android in its products, but the two companies are not exclusive. In fact, Samsung is going to release a smartphone without Android very soon.

Samsung recently announced its Tizen phone, the company’s first smartphone that uses an alternative to Google’s operating system. The Samsung Z will make its market debut in Russia this summer after a premiere at the Tizen conference in San Francisco in early June. Following this, the phone will be released into other smartphone markets.

Tizen is an open source operating system. It began development under that name in 2011, before Android became the world’s dominant mobile operating system. Tizen is a Linux-based operating system, but it also has corporate roots. Its technical steering group includes Intel and Samsung, the latter of which retains much of the rights to the operating system. Tizen’s Software Development Kit License Agreement spells out that although Tizen is an open source product, any violation of its terms will get a developer in trouble with Samsung, not Linux.

Samsung may have a large stake in Tizen, but the majority of its products remain Android based – much to Google’s benefit. For many customers, Samsung is the Android brand. This association is not surprising, as Samsung is the top smartphone company in the Android market. However, this is hardly the firm’s first foray into non-Android territory.

Before it became Apple’s rival in the high-end smartphone market, it released a smartphone with its bada operating system in 2008. (This operating system is about .04 percent of the world operating system market share today, Forbes reports.) So while Samsung continues to use Android, the brand has never been Android exclusive. This trend will continue as the company plans more Tizen devices, some of which are already in the works, such as Tizen-based Galaxy Gear smartwatches.

Tizen is entering an already crowded mobile operating system market. The two dominant operating systems are Android and Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS. Windows (NASDAQ:MSFT) is a distant third. BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) and others compete for the remainder of the market. Tizen has the distinct advantage of having Samsung’s backing; having the world’s largest smartphone company using the software benefits Tizen.

The challenge of building up Tizen will fall upon Samsung. While it is currently unlikely to become a serious competitor to iOS or Android in the near future, it could overtake less popular systems like BlackBerry’s and compete with Windows, whose platform is growing. Some analysts think Samsung will face challenges with the Tizen operating system.

“The market for Tizen won’t be as big as Android or Apple’s iOS, so I think it will be a challenge for Samsung to build up an ecosystem,” IM Investment analyst Lee Min-hee told Reuters. Potential customers and the world will find out more about Tizen when the smartphone comes out.

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