With Tizen, Samsung takes on Google and Apple

samsung smart home
Credit: Kazuho Okui via Flickr

Tizen vs. Android and HomeKit.

Samsung has been rolling out some big news over the past week, starting with the Samsung Simband, wrist hardware (or “reference architecture”) for wearable health sensors, and Samsung SAMI (Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions), an open health data cloud platform.

Then on Monday the South Korean electronics giant announced its long-awaited smartphone based on the Tizen mobile operating system, developed in conjunction with chipmaker Intel, making official what the rest of the industry already knew: Samsung – the world’s No. 1 manufacturer of Android-based devices – intends to compete directly with Google in the mobile OS space.

But another event at this week’s Tizen Developers Conference in San Francisco underscores Samsung’s grand plans for Tizen and its willingness to compete against powerful technology giants. The company demonstrated a Tizen-powered smart home platform that enables users to control connected utilities and appliances through voice commands picked up by their Tizen smartphones (which right now means the Samsung Z) or smartwatches (just the Gear 2, as of now).

You can see a brief demo in the video below:


Samsung announced its Smart Home Service two months ago, but Monday’s demo came on the same day that some company based in Cupertino announced a smart home platform at its own developers conference.

HomeKit, as CITEworld’s Ryan Faas writes, is “the new platform for home automation that Apple has developed with partners who are already providing smart or connected in-home products like lightbulbs, switches, and locks.”

Getting into the ring with Google and Apple almost simultaneously seems a bit crazy, but you can’t say Samsung lacks for ambition.

Further, the Internet of Things opens up huge opportunities for the companies that can figure it out first (and market the hardest). And while Apple is a formidable competitor, Samsung’s not exactly a boot-strapping start-up.

But Apple has at least one distinct advantage at the “smart home” (and by extension, “smart office”) starting line. As Tom’s Guide points out, iPhone owners who want to use HomeKit only have to upgrade to iOS 8, while the many millions of consumers who own Samsung-made Android phones (and anyone else who’s interested) will have to buy a Tizen phone. Basically, Apple is starting the race with a running start.

Given that the Internet of Things seems to be a vast Land of Opportunity, Apple’s early edge may not matter in the long run, especially if Tizen can grab a detectable chunk of the mobile OS market. After all, iOS’s global share of the smartphone OS global market was 17.6% in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to IDC.

That being said, Apple device owners are a loyal group, so it’s likely that a healthy percentage of them will eagerly embrace HomeKit. Tizen owners? There really aren’t any yet. The Samsung Z won't go on sale until the third quarter, and even then it can only be purchased in Russia.

Tizen has a long slog ahead, but Samsung appears committed to its homegrown OS. If it's not at least in third place in the smartphone OS market a year from now -- and the current No. 3 is Windows Phone, with 3.0% of the market -- well, that might be a problem.

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