Samsung eyes Russia and India as launchpads for its first Tizen phone

Samsung Electronics is once again getting ready to launch a smartphone based on the Tizen operating system, according to a media report

Samsung Electronics may finally be ready to launch a smartphone based on the Tizen open-source operating system, and is eyeing Russia and India for the event.

Last year was an uphill struggle for Samsung's Tizen team. Products were supposed to start shipping before the end of the year, but the plan fizzled out as mobile operators Orange and NTT DoCoMo backed off plans to sell the phones.

But Samsung and its partner Intel have deep-enough pockets to continue to develop the operating system, hoping to turn it into a success and help wean the telecom sector off its dependency on Google and Android. About six months after the original target date Samsung is once again getting ready to launch a Tizen smartphone at an event in Moscow in the coming weeks, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The phone would go on sale in Russia and India, sources told the paper. These two countries have likely been carefully picked by Samsung, as it wants Tizen to get off to a good start.

"My take would be that there is more of an opportunity to drive volume in these markets as they don't depend on operator distribution or subsidies as the primary route to market," said Ben Wood, director of research at CCS Insight.

Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics agreed: "We believe Samsung is taking a path of least resistance for Tizen. India and Russia are relatively open markets, where mobile operators have limited control over distribution channels. This makes it easier for Samsung to sell new Tizen models. Breaking into the established markets in Asia, Western Europe and North America, where operators have far more control over smartphone distribution, may prove to be trickier for Samsung," he said.

India and Russia are the third- and eighth-largest smartphone markets worldwide, and they often get overlooked for major new global product launches, according to Mawston.

Earlier this year Samsung launched the Tizen-based Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches. Those products stand a greater chance of becoming successful, because the smartwatch market is still in its infancy and Tizen's reliance on HTML5 would be less of an issue with fewer and less advanced apps needed. Breaking the stranglehold Apple and Google have on the smartphone market will be very difficult irrespective of the tactics Samsung chooses.

The Tizen project was born about two years and 8 months ago, when the Linux Foundation and Limo Foundation rebooted their efforts to compete with iOS and the Android camp by merging their respective open-source mobile OSes, MeeGo and Limo. The backers of the operating system will meet next month at the Tizen Developer Conference, which takes place in San Francisco from June 2.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

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