Huawei’s Doubts Highlight Tizen’s Chicken-and-Egg Problem

Huawei’s Richard Yu has recently branded Tizen as having ‘no future’, leaving the platform without one of its key partners in the bid to challenge Android and iOS dominance in the mobile operating system space. The Chinese phone vendor joins a raft of manufacturers voicing doubts about the future of the platform. It’s possible they may have just caught last-minute jitters from Samsung, who have postponed the launch of the Tizen-powered Samsung Z to make improvements to the OS. Having already suffered in getting network operators to accept the new platform, now hardware vendors are getting cold feet.

The biggest reason for this is often cited as a lack of content, with many app developers refusing to develop for the system, citing a small potential audience for the software. But the system may never develop the audience without the apps. Tizen therefore looks consigned to limbo for a while yet, suffering a similar fate to the Firefox OS, also an HTML 5-based platform, and be consigned to smaller markets with more basic phones. The cross-platform potential for these apps does not overcome the inconsistent and buggy shortcomings that plague HTML5, particularly for developers that are large enough to develop for both iOS and Android.

One of the bigger Tizen advocates, Intel, has developed software to aid developers in producing apps for multiple platforms, joining a library of cross-platform tools for developers. However, there are comparatively few Android developers using these tools, meaning that Tizen is unlikely to take market share from its target competitor.

Complementary to this, the future for Tizen could be outside the phone, if Samsung’s wider consumer electronics portfolio is considered. The Korean manufacturer doesn’t have to deal with as many outside partners for its other hardware like smart fridges and TVs, and the app ecosystem for the whole category is virtually non-existent. Tizen could do well in the smart home category it does not succeed in phones, in a way that can gather momentum over time more slowly than the frantic pace of the mobile market. If Tizen can establish that sort of a platform for its devices, it would make buying into that emerging system more appealing for developers, and thereby establish the platform.

However, even here Tizen is not alone. The announcement of Android L earlier this year show that Google is preparing Android to go multi-device too in addition to Chromecast, and Apple could expand Apple TV’s services. Tizen may have a cleaner start in this segment, but the fight would be far from over.