Spurned by smartphones, Tizen seeks role in Internet of things

The platform still has a long way to go, as few mobile developers currently work with it

Though the two-year-old Tizen platform is still ramping up, proponents are championing the open source OS as a potential unifier for the much-ballyhooed Internet of things, a change from Tizen's original mission to be a smartphone OS to replace Nokia's Symbian.

Those IoT ambitions were clear this week at the Tizen Developer Conference this week in San Francisco. Tizen is "about creating a common platform that can be used for all manner of devices," says Brian Warner, manager of the Tizen project at the Linux Foundation. Developers use Web standards like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build apps that run on the Tizen core OS on top of a Linux kernel. To entice developers to build for the Tizen Store, they are being offered 100 percent of their app revenues for one year, minus taxes and carrier billing fees.

Still, Tizen has an uphill battle, dueling with many established embedded platforms also targeting IoT, including Apple's iOS, Google's Android, BlackBerry's QNX, Oracle's Java, and Microsoft's Windows Embedded. (Apple emphasized iOS's use in home appliances, medical appliances, and cars this week at its own WWDC conference.)

On the smartphone side, Tizen competes with several other Web-based platforms, including Canonical's Ubunbtu Touch, Mozilla's Firefox OS, and Jolla's Sailfish, none of which have yet gained significant manufacturer backing. In Tizen's case, Samsung is its major backer and funder -- Intel is the other big backer -- and the company plans to release its Tizen-powered Samsung Z smartphone in Russia, a Tizen-powered 65-inch TV, and devices like cameras this year, in addition to the already-released Gear 2 smart watch.

Only 2 to 3 percent of mobile developers are targeting Tizen, according to surveys conducted by Forrester Research. "Most of that interest appears to be coming from our Chinese data, with almost no active dev interest outside China," says analyst Jeffrey Hammond. "We'll get updated data at the end of June, so we'll see if there's any movement, but so far I haven't seen it yet."

To succeed in the IoT space, Tizen has to become an alternative to Linux or Android on popular prototyping devices like Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, NXP, or Arduino, Hammond says. "As an example, I'm doing some research around beacons right now, and you see lots of companies working with smart beacons based on Raspberry Pis running Linux, but I haven't seen a sniff of Tizen yet."

Bob Summerwill, whose Kitsilano Software company builds software for mobile systems, wearables, and games, sees an opening for Tizen in developing markets. "It can utterly take on Android as a peer" on systems like smartphones and tablets, he says. Summerwill is involved in development of MonoTizen, which brings C# development to Tizen.

Tizen now features development profiles for mobile devices, wearables, and in-vehicle infotainment. Profiles are planned for TVs, cameras, and home appliances; they pull together the Linux kernel, core Tizen OS components, and appropriate optional components for hardware developers to use in their devices.

The Tizen 3.0 release planned for early 2015 is intended to emphasize common capabilities, such as a 3D UI framework and Wayland display server capabilities, as well as support multiple simultaneuous users, such as for in-car systems. Support for 64-bit Intel chips is planned for the Tizen 3.0 beta release due in late June, with support for 64-bit ARM chips planned but with no release date set. The alpha source code and an SDK for Tizen 2.3 for wearable devices were released this week.

This story, "Spurned by smartphones, Tizen seeks role in Internet of things," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.