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It’s looking like a bear market for Tizen on mobile

The non-Windows challenger to the iOS-Android mobile duopoly gets a subtle cold shoulder from Intel in the mobile space, but is that the best policy?

Intel's Doug Fisher, General Manager, Software and Services Group
Intel’s Doug Fisher, General Manager, Software and Services Group

It would be ignorant to say that Tizen doesn’t have its fans in the mobile and wearable space. Symphony Teleca, a software and services consultancy, is certainly bullish on the operating environment in mobile, as its CTO Andrew Till expressed in a January interview with VR-Zone. Samsung has also bought confidence stock in the upstart Linux-based OS, as its refreshed Gear smartwatch runs on the OS.

But Tizen has yet to have a critical hardware win — in the West or East — that’s needed to push the operating environment onto the operating environment landscape. Symphony Teleca’s Till said that this would likely come in the form of replacing the Android Open Source Project [a truly open-source version of Android that can be built upon] on a device that uses proprietary service layers (the Kindle Fire would be an example of such device), but there’s no movement to indicate that this will be happening anytime soon.

A catalyst in the development of Tizen on mobile could be a hardware manufacturer giving the operating environment full fledged support in the mobile space much like many have given it that kind of support in other environments like automotive or (non-computing) device. After all, as Intel’s Doug Fisher, the company’s software and services boss, told VR-Zone at Intel’s Developer Forum in Shenzhen, Intel contributes to Tizen and supports its automotive ambitions through things like Auto Grade Linux. But the same can’t be said about it in mobile.

Fisher explained Intel’s lack of direct support for Tizen’s mobile version as a product of Intel’s strict policy of OS-neutrality.

“We’re not agnostic about the architecture; we’re agnostic in a lot of respects to the operating environments that run on it,” Fisher said. “Intel doesn’t choose. We choose to participate, but we don’t choose winners in the space. We right now have our energy between the Android ecosystem and the Windows ecosystem.”

“We know where our investments need to be. We’re not shy about it,” he continued. “We’re going to intercept existing ecosystems, and if Tizen becomes an ecosystem of interest we’ll work to make sure it’s optimized for Intel.”

Does neutrality hurt innovation?

Many companies in the hardware and operating system economy have policies of neutrality to try and push away dominance by one vendor as much as possible. An example is Android’s support of MIPS — even though Imagination’s Warrior CPU hasn’t gone anywhere quite yet — out of fear that the ecosystem might be known as “ARMdroid” one day.

So there’s a case to be made for Intel breaking its strict policy of neutrality to get another operating environment into the mobile space as a serious contender. It might be that Windows 8 on mobile environments hits a ceiling for growth, and Intel-on-Android never really catches on, making Intel’s mobile gambit a tepid success at best.

Intel has its reasons for remaining as neutral as possible in order to maximize the number of potential customers. But as an insurance policy on the success of its architecture on the current operating environments, there’s no foreseeable harm in trying to jump start another contender in the operating system race — to maximize the number of potential customers.

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