Though Samsung is Google’s most visible partner in the Android space, recent politics may be forcing Samsung to explore a Plan B, which includes the Tizen operating system. As Samsung hopes to not only conquer the hardware space, but also control the ecosystem in which it operates a la rival Apple, Tizen will have an uphill battle to giving users a robust selection of content when it goes primetime sometime in the first half of 2014 to battle market leaders Android and Apple’s iOS. As such, Samsung Chief Secretary Wonsuk Lee is hinting that to battle these leading ecosystem providers, the company may be exploring a partnership with Mozilla to bring Tizen and Firefox OS together.
According to a report posted by ZDNet Korea Lee notes that such a relationship would be practical since both Tizen–created out of a partnership between Samsung, Intel and others–and the Firefox OS–made by Mozilla–are both built on HTML5. As such, apps created for one platform could theoretically work on the other platform, and pooling resources could make the Tizen and Firefox markets appear to capture a larger user base, which would in turn attract more developers. It’s essentially a chicken and the egg story–users won’t want to adopt unless there is readily available content and developers may not be willing to create such content unless there are users to make development efforts profitable.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an OS-maker rely on a rival OS to attract users. Though a little bit different, BlackBerry eventually built an emulation engine into its BlackBerry 10 operating system to allow devices like the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10 to run recompiled Android apps. The Tizen-Firefox arrangement likely won’t call for an emulation engine, but the business strategy is similar.
The danger with Samsung’s strategy, and one that we’ve experienced personally on the BlackBerry 10 ecosystem, is that if there are specific interactions, designs, and gestures inherent in either OS, allowing the app to run on the competing ecosystem may cause confusion. In the case of BlackBerry, we found that though BlackBerry 10 calls for unique gestures, running recompiled Android apps brought a different UI and usage to the experience, which could be confusing at first.
Still, a partnership may be fruitful for all parties involved. Firefox OS is now targeted at the low end segment of the market while Samsung and Intel are both hoping that the Tizen’s scalability would create few market overlaps and more synergy if the two OSes collaborated rather than compete.