Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), the biggest seller of devices using the Android operating system, plans to release a smartphone powered by the open-source platform Tizen as soon as August.
“The Tizen phone will be out in August or September, and this will be in the high-end category,” Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung’s mobile business, said during an interview in Seoul. “The device will be the best product equipped with the best specifications.”
The model will be one of at least three premium handsets released by Samsung this year -- including the Galaxy S4 unveiled yesterday and a new Galaxy Note -- to compete with Apple Inc. and Chinese producers in a slowing market. Samsung is among 12 companies, including Intel Corp. (INTC:US) and Sprint Nextel Corp. (S:US), developing Tizen as an alternative to Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s Android, which runs two of every three smartphones worldwide.
There currently are no Tizen devices sold globally. The first users will have “thousands” of applications to choose from, Chase Perrin, an official with the San Ramon, California- based Tizen Association, said in an e-mail.
“Android, among other mobile operating systems, is tightly controlled,” Perrin said. “As an open-source software platform, Tizen is designed to make it easy to develop for a range of devices.”
Samsung, the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, is under pressure to develop its own software after Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, acquired handset maker Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. for more than $12 billion in May, boosting its patent portfolio.
Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung relied on Android for 96 percent of its smartphone shipments in the third quarter, according to Bloomberg Industries. The company released its Bada software in 2009, and it is used primarily in lower-end smartphones in Europe and emerging markets.
Samsung’s new flagship S4 uses the latest version of Android.
“This is just sort of a safety net,” said Doh Hyun Woo, an analyst for Seoul-based Mirae Asset Securities. “But if Google dominates the market just like Microsoft did in the PC market with more than 90 percent share, it may turn totally opposite.”
Samsung fell 2.4 percent to 1,484,000 won at 10:48 a.m. in Seoul trading. The stock has gained 19 percent in the past 12 months compared with a 2.4 percent decline in the benchmark Kospi index.
Samsung sells about a quarter of all mobile phones globally, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. It shipped 213 million smartphones last year, compared with 135.8 million for Apple and 35 million for Nokia Oyj. (NOK1V)
Android’s share of the global smartphone market rose to 68.4 percent in 2012 from 48.7 percent a year earlier, according to a January report by Strategy Analytics. Android and Apple’s iOS software combined for 87.8 percent of all smartphones shipped last year.
Huawei Technologies Co., China’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment, is among manufacturers developing the Tizen operating system.
“We see open source and web-based platforms, like the one provided by Tizen, as a good collaboration opportunity,” said Scott Sykes, a spokesman for the Shenzhen-based company. “Any discussion on specific products is premature.”
The Tizen Association’s members also include Panasonic Corp. (6752), NTT DoCoMo Inc. and Vodafone Group Plc. (VOD)
DoCoMo, Japan’s biggest mobile phone company, expects to release a Tizen handset in the second half of the year.
“Android’s challenge for 2013 will be to defend its leadership, not only against Apple, but also against an emerging wave of hungry challengers that includes Microsoft, BlackBerry, Firefox and Tizen,” Strategy Analytics said in its Jan. 28 report.
Mozilla Corp. is developing the Firefox smartphone operating system.
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