Samsung co-CEO: We want Tizen to be on everything

In an interview with CNET Korea, Samsung's J.K. Shin talks about the opportunity for the upstart operating system to run on everything from smartphones to cars.

Meet the Tizen operating system, running on a prototype Samsung phone. Luke Westaway/CNET

Samsung Electronics has broad ambitions for Tizen, an open operating system the company has taken a lead role in developing as it looks to wean itself off its dependence on Android and Google.

That's according to Samsung Electronics co-CEO J.K. Shin, who runs the company's IT and mobile communications division. In a joint interview with CNET Korea (Korean language) and CNET, Shin made it clear that Tizen is more than a pet project and "simple alternative for Android." Indeed, he envisions Tizen running on more than just smartphones, and that it will eventually move to vehicles and other industries.

"There are many convergences not only among IT gadgets, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, and cameras, but also among different industries like cars, bio, or banks," he said. "Cross-convergence is the one [area] Samsung can do best since we do have various parts and finished products."

While Tizen is an open operating system, Samsung and Intel have spearheaded the development of the standards behind it. Tizen enjoyed a splashy introduction at Mobile World Congress in February, and has been slowly introducing new versions and rallying developer support.

Tizen is important because it represents Samsung's best attempt to push an operating system that it has more control over . Samsung's surge to dominance over the smartphone market has been driven by its Galaxy S line of smartphones, which all run on Google's Android software. While Samsung continues to say all the right things about its partner, it's clear the Korean conglomerate would prefer to rely less on Google and more on home-grown software.

Samsung co-CEO J.K. Shin. Stephen Shankland/CNET

The operating system appeared to hit a snag recently, with Samsung delaying the introduction of the first Tizen phone until the fourth quarter. The delay led to some speculation that Samsung's enthusiasm for the platform had waned.

Shin brushed aside rumors that Samsung would drop Tizen, and maintained that the company considers it a key operating system alongside Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone platform.

Beyond smartphones, Tizen could find its way into vehicles. Shin mentioned cars as one area Samsung would like to be in, and partner Intel sounds similarly confident in the software's ability to power in-car apps and systems. A person familiar with Intel's work with Tizen said the operating system is well-suited to the auto industry's need for differentiation. But the person said Tizen wouldn't make its way to cars until 2015.

Samsung and Intel aren't the only ones looking at cars. Apple in June said its iOS 7 software would work in cars, highlighting the integration of dashboard systems and its iPhone. General Motors, for instance, has done a lot of work to integrate voice-command service Siri into its system. BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins touted the BlackBerry platform's ability to power cars -- the QNX software that BlackBerry 10 is based off of already runs vehicles and other equipment.

Samsung's secret weapon in the mobile wars: Tizen

Moving beyond smartphones is a key initiative for Samsung. Shin has designated the term "cross category" as a keyword in the company's strategy, and is getting the groundwork set up for vehicles, among other industries.

Shin also teased new developments on the tablet front. Samsung has made a lot of progress cutting into Apple's once-dominant share in the tablet business, thanks to a plethora of tablets in different sizes. The company sees tablets as a growth area, offsetting any potential slowdown in the key smartphone business. Shin, however, was stingy with the details.

"There will be good news on the tablet soon," he said. "Please wait and see."

 

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