Not just for phones: Samsung shows Tizen-powered TV, cameras

Company has been pushing the open-source OS -- an Android alternative -- in everything from wearables to TVs.

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Samsung showed off a prototype Tizen TV at the Tizen Developer Conference in San Francisco. Nate Ralph/CNET

And so Samsung's big Tizen push begins.

The Korean electronics company, which earlier this week unveiled a new smartphone running the open-source operating system, on Tuesday showed off Tizen-based TVs, cameras, and wearables -- some of these devices for the first time. The gadgets, displayed at the Tizen Developer Conference in San Francisco, all are part of Samsung's efforts to create a broad ecosystem for Tizen, its alternative to Android.

Samsung and partner Intel are hosting a conference this week to boost developer support for Tizen. Though Tizen is an open operating system, Samsung and Intel have spearheaded the development of the standards behind it. Tizen has been mentioned most often in the context of smartphones, but Samsung has vowed to release the software in everything from cars to smartwatches.

"Cross-convergence is the one [area] Samsung can do best, since we do have various parts and finished products," Samsung co-CEO JK Shin, told CNET last year.

Samsung is the world's biggest Android device maker by a wide margin, but it has been developing Tizen as an alternative to Google's operating system for nearly three years. Tizen, which is already running on Samsung's Gear watches, gives Samsung more control over its own future, allowing it to rely less on Google and more on its homegrown software. That becomes increasingly important as Google works to support other Android vendors and as Samsung tries to set itself apart from all the other device makers in the market.

Tizen development has been anything but smooth, however. Samsung's first phone faced numerous delays, and the app store still lacks many big names, including Facebook and WhatsApp. Samsung not only had troubles with hardware and getting the software itself ready, but it also has struggled with carrier support, apps, and other features essential for a successful launch.

Samsung on Monday unveiled its first Tizen-based smartphone, the Samsung Z. The device will hit the market more than a year late and will initially be available only in Russia. Samsung also sells smartwatches, including the Gear 2, and cameras that run on Tizen.

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Samsung on Tuesday also showed off for the first time a prototype television running Tizen. The software allows users to connect to the Web, access photos and videos, listen to music, watch live TV, and theoretically download apps (there aren't many apps available for the TV software at this time). The company also showed off a Wi-Fi keyboard.

"Read my lips, they will be on the market very soon," Jong-Deok Choi, executive vice president of Samsung Electronics, said of Samsung's new breed of smart TVs. He made the comments during a keynote at the developer conference Tuesday, according to Recode.

Samsung co-CEO BK Yoon last year said Tizen-powered TVs likely would hit the market in 2014.

Samsung isn't the only company pushing a complete operating system in TVs. LG bought the WebOS business from Hewlett-Packard and showed off TVs running the operating system at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Korea-based LG said Monday that it has sold more than 1 million WebOS-enabled smart TVs since the lineup debuted in March, and it expects sales to hit 10 million by the first half of 2015.

Google also has targeted the market, though full-fledged Google TVs largely have flopped. The service aimed to allow users to access the full Web from their TV sets, but the products have faced tepid sales and many setbacks. For one, several major online sites -- such as Hulu -- were blocked on the devices. Logitech, one of the first creators of a Google TV set-top box, admitted that its product was a "mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature." Instead, Google lately has pushed its $35 Chromecast streaming dongle.

Apple also is believed to be working on its own complete TV offering to complement its current Apple TV product, but Eddy Cue, the company's head of Internet software and services, said last week that "TV is a hard problem to solve."

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Samsung created a new cloud platform called Tizen CloudBox. Nate Ralph/CNET

Samsung has long made its own software for TVs, but as it tries to give devices more functionality and connect them together, that's easier to do with a common operating system.

Along with showing off a TV and its new Samsung Z smartphone on Tuesday, Samsung also demonstrated the connection of its Tizen-based Gear 2 smartwatch to the Samsung Z and a Tizen-powered TV. A user accessing Samsung's S Health fitness-tracking app on a Gear 2 can send the information to a smartphone or even to a Tizen-based TV to keep track of results.

The company also talked about a cloud offering called Tizen CloudBox. The program works as a sort of repository for all of a user's various cloud accounts, showing all files in one folder. For instance, someone could view all of her files from Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, Google Drive, One Drive, and Amazon S3 in one location, rather than having to open each app separately. Samsung enabled the feature by tapping into open APIs offered by the various cloud companies. The likelihood of Apple's iCloud being included is slim.

Samsung plans to introduce Tizen CloudBox into the public domain as an open-source project "soon." Currently, it's just available as a prototype.

Samsung also showed off two cameras based on Tizen. Neither, however, supports Tizen apps; they simply use the operating system as the underlying software for the camera. The company said Tizen improves battery life and performance. Four of Samsung's recent cameras -- the NX300, NX300m, NX2000, and NX30 -- run Tizen.

The Tizen event coincides with another developer conference nearby: Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. Apple, which hosted about 6,000 developers chosen through a lottery program, showed off the latest version of its iOS mobile software and its Mac OS X operating system, as well as new health and smart-home programs. It also launched a new programming language, called Swift, to help developers make apps faster.

About 1,400 developers have attended the Tizen conference, which kicked off Monday. Samsung said it hit event capacity, with registration 35 percent higher than expected.

Samsung's "convergence" efforts closely mirror what Apple has been doing with its own devices -- making them all talk together and interact easily. However, Apple arguably is further along with the process than Samsung. Part of its advantage is having a management structure that oversees all products. Samsung's operations are very siloed, with electronics rarely interacting with mobile.

 

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