Late last month there was jubilation in the Samsung camp with the news that NTT DoCoMo was going to be the first carrier to offer a Tizen powered device – a smartphone powered by Samsung's own OS. Samsung was so excited about the project that they had sent invites out for an event scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, according to The Times of India. That all blew up in Samsung's face today as NTT Docomo has officially dropped the Tizen OS Phone that was tabled to launch in Japan later this quarter.
Last week we reported that Japan's largest carrier NTT Docomo had added more subscribers than its rivals for the first time since December 2011, gaining 279,100 net users last month due to their big push selling Apple's iPhone. Was Docomo's success with the iPhone enough for them to kill the Tizen project?
Docomo had been losing subscribers by stubbornly sticking with Samsung's smartphones like the Galaxy S4 and Note 3. If those smartphones were failing to attract consumers away from the iPhone, then for sure the new Tizen OS wouldn't be able to make a dent in the market. It would only distract Docomo's attention away from making money with Apple's iPhone.
On January 16, Sankei Business quoted a high-ranking official at the telecoms operator as saying, "The release date is up in the air for now, and the project itself may be canceled." Ouch!
The Korean report further noted that until recently, NTT DoCoMo had been the most proactive member of the Tizen alliance. It had previously scheduled the release of the new Tizen handsets for Q4 2013. However, Samsung Electronics put off the release of a Tizen phone when NTT DoCoMo kicked off the sale of the iPhone. It's unknown at this time if Docomo's move to sell the iPhone set off a negative chain reaction over at Samsung.
The Tizen alliance is still planning to hold an international event in Barcelona, Spain on February 23 (local time), one day ahead of this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC). It is expected that the finalized Tizen operating system and smartphones running it will be unveiled at the event. Without Docomo on board, the event is now likely to lack any launch day excitement. The only backer that still may launch Tizen OS based smartphones is Europe's Orange, according to a 2013 Tizen Association press release.
In the end, it's just another blow to Samsung's credibility in being able to lead the market with its own operating system. If it wasn't political, then the Tizen OS must have been in pretty bad shape for Docomo to have bowed out at the very last moment considering that Roy Sugimura, DoCoMo's director of technology planning serves as the Tizen Association's chairman.
To save face for the Alliance, a Docomo spokesperson reportedly told the Wall Street Journal that they would continue to work on developing Tizen phones.