Tag Archives: tizen

Cutting off Huawei could kill it, or kill tech monopolies

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Huawei press conference ces 6jan2014

Conventional wisdom is that Huawei can’t survive without access to U.S. technology. It was cut off from access to U.S. customers and vendors last week, although the toughest sanctions were delayed for three months earlier this week. If and when those sanctions take full effect, two companies – ARM and Google – say they’ll stop selling Huawei licenses to use two essential building blocks of the mobile industry – ARM’s chip designs and Google’s Android ecosystem. Huawei could be cutoff from similarly essential technology in other industry segments, for example the Windows operating system.

It’s dangerous to assume, however, that any company, let alone one as big and ambitious and well supported as Huawei will just roll over die. The company has said it’s kept a Plan B on the back burner for several years, which require it to launch its own operating system, to replace Android and Windows, and develop advanced chip technology in house.

There’s a lot of skepticism about a Huawei OS. The assumption is that it would be based on the open source bits of Android, but wouldn’t be able to gain any more uptake than past alternate mobile OS attempts, such as Tizen, Firefox or Sailfish. The counter argument is that the Chinese market is already semi-isolated from the global app and service ecosystem. If Huawei gets developer support and user adoption on its home turf – not a far out possibility – it could become the mythical third mobile OS that so many competitors – Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Canonical, Mozilla, [Blackberry] –(https://www.tellusventure.com/blog/blackberry-shares-the-big-one-with-the-cops/) have failed to capture.

Chipsets are a tougher problem, but there could be hardware workarounds, according to a TechRepublic article by James Sanders

In terms of hardware, Huawei is far from self-sufficient. Their HiSilicon division licenses the Arm ISA for use in Kirin smartphone SoCs and Kunpeng server CPUs. HiSilicon already possesses the requisite information to manufacture chips based on the technology, and they can continue to design ARMv8-powered chips without the involvement of Arm Holdings, which has cut ties with Huawei. The actual production of these is handled by TSMC, which is one of the few organizations continuing work with Huawei…

There are still options for Huawei…Samsung, LG, and BOE are potential vendors for displays, and Sony and Leica can provide lenses and sensors for cameras. Flash storage and RAM may be an issue, as Toshiba and Micron are used, though SK Hynix provides RAM on some devices, and Samsung can likewise supply both.

It’s too soon to know with any degree of certainty how this battle in the U.S.-China trade war will play out. It could just be another round of brinkmanship, and president Donald Trump has all but admitted that’s what this is all about. But if it isn’t, the result could be a global scale competitor to some cherished de facto technology monopolies, which are either based in the U.S. or dependent on intellectual property that’s rooted here. That would be good for the market, but it’s not exactly what the Trump administration has in mind.

Security and simplicity keep Sailfish, Tizen hopes alive

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Just enough to start the day.

Two alternative, Linux-based smart phone operating systems are still in the game, but might be headed towards greener markets. Version 3.0 of the Tizen OS is due out in September and the Sailfish OS has a new, $12 million lifeline.

Tizen is an open source project that’s largely driven by Samsung. It started out as an alternative to Android and a replacement for Bada, Samsung’s previous in-house OS. So far, it hasn’t found much traction in the mobile phone market, despite Samsung’s dominance of that sector. A couple of Samsung smart phones with Tizen installed shipped to India, but so far haven’t done very well.

On the other hand, Samsung is installing Tizen on its Gear smart watch, as well as smart TVs and other consumer electronics products that are less dependent on the good will of independent app developers. The 3.0 upgrade is pitched as “IoT ready”, according to an article in PC World with support for “refrigerators, light bulbs, washing machines, and even vacuum cleaners”. It could evolve into the OS of choice for connected devices, which are more or less self-contained and don’t need third party apps or services.

So long as it has a sugar daddy with deep pockets and a clear business case, the Tizen project will push ahead and its adoption rate will continue to grow, even if it’s just within the Samsung universe.

It’s harder to see where Sailfish is heading, or even why anyone would want to invest in its parent company, Jolla. A plan to make and sell a tablet fizzled out, and its only ray of hope is Turing Robotics’ decision to move from California to Finland and switch to Sailfish, seeking to leverage tougher privacy laws into a high security selling proposition. But given the increasingly heated battle between tech companies and the U.S. government, and Blackberry’s willingness to hand over encryption keys to Canadian authorities, there might be a market opening for Turing and Jolla.

Tizen chases the IoT dream with a less is more approach

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Or maybe just the future of washing machines.

The Tizen operating system is at the center of Samsung’s Internet of things strategy, according to a company blog post. Backed by Intel and others as well as Samsung and originally intended to be an alternative to Android in the mobile phone space, Tizen’s focus appears to have shifted to embedded systems…

Tizen requires less processing power and memory, thereby ensuring faster device speeds while consuming less energy…

Because it is lightweight, Tizen is optimal for use across a wide spectrum of smart connected devices in the IoT space. While devices with high demand for computing power, such as smartphones and TVs, are part of the IoT, so are devices that require relatively less computing power, such as wearables, vacuum cleaners and washing machines.

Samsung isn’t giving up on Tizen for heavier applications. It’s still the OS of choice for its smart TVs and it’s launched a Tizen-based smartphone in India, albeit to a lukewarm reception.

But clearly Samsung is looking at a development fork: a smart, processor-intensive version that might or might not find a useful place amongst the other descendants of Unix, versus a strategy of optimising it for the stripped down requirements of the moderately bright devices that are likely to comprise the vast majority of IoT nodes.

That’s in keeping with the promise that Samsung CEO BK Yoon made at CES last month, saying “our IoT components and devices will be open. The Internet of Things needs an open ecosystem”. Where Android is a creature of Google, the Tizen project runs under the flag of the Linux Foundation. Samsung and Intel are first among presumed equals in managing the project, but given the foundation’s governance structure that needn’t always be so.

One of the key reasons smart phones took off was the fact that purpose-built operating systems were developed. Whether or not it’s Tizen, an open source, community-managed device OS that’s optimised for lightweight IoT needs and directly integrated with the security, control and networking operating systems that’ll tie them together is the best way forward.

Microsoft doesn’t offer a plausible proposition to the mobile world

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The’s more to mobility than moving around the conference room.

This week’s coming out party for Windows 10 confirmed Microsoft’s slow shift from a shrink wrapped products company to a service provider.

The company will not execute that strategy quickly enough or effectively. To be a universal platform for desktop and mobile computing means mobile telecoms carriers and manufacturers will have to make a major shift away Android and adopt the Windows operating system and all the cloud services that surround it.

It’s true that there’s grumbling about Android. Samsung continues to develop the open source Tizen operating system and is introducing it into product categories that are still in the early adopter stage and lack a market consensus on standards – smart TVs are a good example. But that discontent is driven by Google’s role in managing the open source Android platform, and not particularly by defects in the system.

If smart phone manufacturers or carriers are queasy about Google’s arm’s length control of Android, do you honestly believe they’re going to rush into Microsoft’s embrace? Even if Windows was the ultimate mobile operating system – and it’s not by a long shot – it’s still a closed, proprietary system owned and developed by a company with a poor record of playing well with others.

One of the (relative) innovations announced on Wednesday was a plan to provide Windows as a service – manage the operating system on user devices in real time, at least to the extent of pushing out updates. There’s no reason it would stop there, though. The concept works great for a vertically integrated company like Apple, but would be a nightmare for third party manufacturers.

Tying a world of cloud services to the OS is even more problematic. The pitch to carriers and manufacturers becomes: hey, if you put Windows on your phones, you won’t have to worry about the hassle of selling all those pesky add on services and upgrades. Right.

One stop shopping for computing services might appeal to the corporate and institutional IT managers with whom Microsoft already has a relationship. The Samsungs and T-Mobiles of the world won’t be interested.

Sony picks in-house OS for wearables and survival

by Steve Blum • , , , , , , ,

Used to be staying alive was innovation enough.

Google’s try at adapting its Android operating system to specifically support wearable devices isn’t getting much love from manufacturers. Following Samsung’s lead, Sony has decided to make its own Android mod for wearable products, instead of using Google’s Wear platform. It’s a necessary gamble if Sony still wants to be Sony.

The company is trying to remake itself into a mobile-oriented, innovative brand. Like it used to be when Sony launched the Walkman 35 years ago. That’s why they’re unloading the Vaio product range. If they want the brand to mean what it did back in the day, they need to innovate at the operating system level as well as the app and hardware levels.

(Way back when I was working with RCA on the launch of what is now DirecTv, the joke was “what’s the Sony brand worth? Fifty bucks a letter”. OK, maybe not a ROTFLMAO moment, but the $200 premium those four letters fetched was real).

Building and using its own Android adaptation is the way to do that. It gives Sony the ability to tie their wearables more closely to their tablets and phones. If it works, it’ll give them the same kind of advantage Apple will have if it ever extends iOS to wearables. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter because Sony can’t survive as a commodity electronics manufacturer. There’s little opportunity to create magic products if you’re using the same chips and operating system that lead to the same app store as everyone else.

Tizen out to prove one invisible OS is as good as another

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

Enough treats to attract developers.

Samsung is following Google into the wearable operating system space. Its Android alternative – Tizen – now has a software developer kit available specifically for wearable devices, including, of course, the Samsung Gear smart watch. The release came close on the heels of the announcement of 64 winners of the $4 million app development challenge the Tizen Foundation launched last year.

The contest was particularly aimed at HTML5 developers, who were offered $50,000 bonuses on top of the regular prizes, which ranged up to $250,000. The cross-platform encouragement paid off, according to the a post on the Tizen Foundation blog

Many of the apps that were submitted also appear on other platforms. This was expected and encouraged. It’s become increasingly common for app developers to use middleware like Marmalade, Sencha, Unity, Cocos2d-x, and others to develop apps, and with Tizen as one of the export targets it makes sense to get them into the store. In addition, we saw a large number of HTML5 apps that were already written for other platforms ported to Tizen specifically for the challenge. In one notable case, one of the grand prize winners took three days to adapt an existing (and quite extensive) HTML5 app for Tizen.

Plans for launching Tizen-based smart phones aren’t going anywhere right now, but Samsung’s OS is well positioned for new and growing market segments. There’s no winning operating system standard yet for wearables. Appliance and television OSes are largely embedded systems – invisible to users – that focus on vertical, manufacturer-developed applications. The strategy seems to be to flank Android by targeting new product categories, while maintaining sufficient contact with the smart phone market to keep Google honest.

HTML5 pace set by carrier dog days, not developer dog years

by Steve Blum • , , , , , , ,

Puppies for a while longer.

The Firefox OS is built to run thin client HTML5 applications, which depend heavily on network connections to store data and offload processing. So far, the available applications are a promising mixed bag, at least judging by performance on the first readily available Firefox phone, the ZTE Open.

Both the Facebook and, particularly, the Twitter apps are consumer-ready, but most of the other available apps are little more than browser bookmarks that take you to a website. The included email and calendar apps work well with both Google and Apple services, and deliver a smooth user experience. The address book, though, needs a lot of help. It’ll only sync with Google contacts and it’s not well integrated with the phone – dialling directly from a contact is a clunky chore and it’s difficult to, for example, reply quickly to a phone call with a text message.

Mozilla is just one of the companies betting that HTML5 will fullfil its promise of “write once, run everywhere” apps. Tizen and Sailfish are also counting on a spontaneous wellspring of developer support as the language matures, although both of these Nokia MeeGo-descended OSes are also hoping to grow proprietary ecosystems. Jolla released its SDK for the Sailfish OS earlier this week, with a heavy emphasis on its support for Android applications.

The challenge for HTML5 developers is to find a proper balance of on-board functions and network services. Achieving acceptable performance depends on the speed of mobile broadband connections, so the speed of development will be governed, to a large degree, by the upgrade plans of carriers. With other alternative OSes available, developers might not want to wait.

It’s enough for now that Tizen is smart enough for dishwashers

by Steve Blum • , ,

Just load it in when you’re ready.

Smart phones might not be the primary intended target for Tizen, the alternative mobile operating system that’s under development and backed primarily by Samsung and Intel. The expectation – based on Samsung’s words and actions – was that we’d see Tizen smart phones entering the market right about now. But operators, in particular the European carrier Orange, are saying they don’t expect to be offering Tizen handsets until some time later next year.

That doesn’t mean Tizen is stalled, though. Samsung is selling a networked camera that uses a light version of the Tizen OS. Its recent developers conference was focused as much on smart televisions and other appliances as on mobile devices. That’s a market segment where there’s little consumer interest in underlying OSes and no established ecosystem of content and applications. So a lightweight, robust and largely royalty free OS could meet the needs of both customers and manufacturers, and wouldn’t suffer by comparison to iOS and Android.

It makes sense for Samsung to follow a two-track approach. It has a commanding position in the smart phone segment, accounting for something like a third of world wide sales. It’s been successful in adapting Android to low end phones and in challenging Apple with high end versions. Given that it has high degree of control over Tizen’s road map, it might not be much of a shift to load it onto existing product lines at an opportune moment. In the meantime Samsung can use Tizen to colonise the smart appliance space, taking advantage of a comprehensive line of products – from refrigerators to washers to vacuum cleaners – that its smart phone rivals, excepting perhaps LG, can’t match.

Tizen Foundation throws candy at mobile app devs

by Steve Blum • , , , , , , ,

Game on.

A $4 million lolly scramble is underway to jump start the Tizen mobile operating system’s app store. The Tizen Foundation announced a developers’ competition with individual prizes that could go as high as $250,000, and released a new version of the software developer kit for the Linux-based and HTML5-centric OS.

Among other things, Tizen is Samsung’s coming replacement for bada, its in-house smart (or at least modestly bright) phone OS. While bada is a very functional, if lower end, platform, it’s suffered from a lack of developer love. The shelves of its app store are sparsely stocked, a problem this competition is designed head off.

The rules give some clue as to Tizen’s planned market positioning. Game developers can compete for $200,000 (with an extra $50,000 offered for using HTML5). Entries will be judged on “entertainment value, visual design, performance, and controls and input.” Duller productivity apps are only worth a $120,000 top prize, plus the $50,000 HTML5 bonus.

The emphasis on games says that Tizen’s roll out will focus on younger, value conscious users, while the spiffs for HTML5 put it in direct competition with Mozilla’s Firefox OS, which soft-launched this month in Spain.

Housed at the Linux Foundation, the Tizen project is also backed by Intel. Not surprisingly, the SDK supports both ARM and x86 builds and, assuming HTML5 works as intended, apps should run equally well with either chip architecture.

Deadline to enter is technically 1 November 2012, but there’s a catch: to be eligible, an app has to be approved by the Tizen store, a process which could take days or even several weeks. Not quite as easy as diving for treats, but just as much fun.

Based on Linux and orphaned by Nokia, Sailfish OS debuting on Jolla handset

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

The first mobile phone based on the Sailfish operating system has been unveiled by Jolla, a company that splintered off of Nokia when it gave up on the MeeGo OS. It’s feature packed and is trying to differentiate itself by offering customizable backs for the fashion conscious.

So far, it fails to impress. I don’t see a killer sales proposition for the Jolla phone. Swappable backs are fine, but I doubt many people will cough up $500 because a phone is easy to accessorize. At this point, it looks like Jolla is promoting a software developers kit, not a ready for prime time consumer product.

If I’m reading the specs correctly, they’re not putting all their money on Sailfish – it’s Android compatible, at least up to a point. It’s probably possible for them to switch OSes if that looks like a good idea.

But I don’t know what the point would be without Sailfish. Jolla can’t expect to be anything other than a niche player, and creating a niche based on a novel operating system isn’t completely crazy. Just ask Blackberry.

The problem is that of the four alternative operating systems gaining traction this year, Sailfish has the weakest backing. Firefox has Mozilla and a huge ecosystem of developers, plus it’s heading in a new direction: maxmizing server side funtions and minimizing what happens on the device.

Like Sailfish, Tizen and Ubuntu are Linux implementations. But Samsung and Intel are behind Tizen, which means it’ll have enough resources to even out any bumps in the business plan. Ubuntu is a core Linux player, and there’s every reason to think it can maintain its default distro position as mobile processing power grows to the point where Linux “just works.”

Jolla and Sailfish are long shots. Not quite dead on arrival, but they’ll need to put something truly amazing on the table to survive.