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Linux/Open Source

Samsung Reported Ditching Android for Its Smart Watch

Samsung Reported Ditching Android for Its Smart Watch
February 19, 2014 10:34AM

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The Galaxy Gear 2 smart watch will run an HTML5 version of Tizen, sources told USA Today. While Samsung's Gear watch prototype ran Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), and Google is working on an Android version designed for wearable tech, some developers and manufacturers fear that OS will be less open to new applications than before, the report said.

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Talk to the hand. That's what Samsung Electronics is telling Google as it gets ready to release its second-generation smart watch, according to a published report.

The South Korean tech giant that made Google's Android operating system the world's top mobile platform has designed the Galaxy Gear 2 to run another open-source system, the Linux-based Tizen, anonymous sources told USA Today. Tizen was developed by the non-profit Linux Foundation in cooperation with Samsung and Intel.

Keeping Options Open

Samsung's ZEQ 9000 is expected to be the first smartphone powered by Tizen, according to reports last month, and the South Korean handset king is expected to showcase more Tizen devices, including the new Gear watch at the Mobile World Congress 2014 that begins next week in Barcelona.

USA Today's sources said the Gear watch will run an HTML5 version of Tizen. While the Gear watch prototype ran Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), and Google is working on an Android version designed for wearable tech, some developers and manufacturers fear that OS will be less open to new applications than before, the report said.

Samsung is a major partner for Google, with its devices amounting to 39.5 percent of all Android shipments globally in 2013, according to International Data Corp. Android is the world's leading mobile operating system, with a 79 percent of the smartphone market, IDC said, or 793 million units, up 59 percent from 2012, when the market share was 69 percent.

With Tizen in its infancy and still seeking new partners, rolling it out on the Gear watch could mean its time has come.

"Tizen hasn't been that successful so far, however in a connected wearable device there isn't much advantage to Android, given apps would need to be custom designed for the device anyway," technology analyst Rob Enderle told us.

Samsung declined to comment, saying it does not respond to rumors or speculation. Google did not respond to our requests for comment in time for publication.

More Control

The apparent choice of Tizen will likely fuel speculation that Samsung is positioning itself to be less dependent on Android. But Enderle said it appeared this has more to do with optimizing the device than corporate politics.

"This will give Samsung more control over the device itself, which will be best if it does a few compelling things well and doesn't really need the app support advantage that Android would otherwise have," Enderle said.

"So this is less about the rift between Samsung and Google and more about using the more appropriate tool for what Samsung wants to accomplish."

Samsung unveiled the $299 Galaxy Gear in September at the IFA conference in Berlin, with a 1.6-inch Super AMOLED screen, 512 megabytes of memory and four gigabytes of storage. It is meant to be a companion to Samsung smartphones and tablets. Apple is also expected to release a smart watch in the near future.

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