It’s a sure bet when a developer conference is super cheap and filled with perks that the people behind it have some sort of agenda to push. The Tizen Developers Conference in San Francisco was a perfect example of this. It was the type of show that brought out every single bargain-hunting developer in the Bay Area.
To start with, Tizen is fairly doomed. Let’s get that out of the way right now. Sure, some Internet of Things devices might use it, and that’s what Samsung is sort of aiming for with the OS, for now. But there still exist Tizen phones, and now Tizen watches.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear 2, in fact, runs Tizen, and this device was given to all show attendees, myself included. This is a US$300 device being handed out at a $50 conference. So the short story here is, go to this conference!
(Related: Tizen tries to triumph)
But the longer story is that Samsung is a company desperate to carve its own operating system path. There is this quiet rage in the heart of some hardware companies over the fact that Apple and Google control their operating systems, unlike in the days of Wintel, when Microsoft carefully worked with hardware makers and Intel’s chip road maps to ensure Windows was ready for all new hardware every two years or so.
Now, clearly, Android has been moving along at a good clip, and Apple’s iOS is evolving rapidly as well. But if you’re a hardware maker, it’s very likely that the pace of OS innovation is not enough to keep up with all the cool new features you have researched for your devices.
This used to manifest in odd PC peripherals—from SyQuest drives, to Zip drives, to 3D Cards, to sound cards, the path to innovation in the PC hardware space was dominated by third parties carving out a living making add-ons.
The mobile handset market is the opposite: there are no expansion slots here, so if someone wants to add IR to their phone, they have to buy a new phone, not buy an add-on. As a result, Samsung controls, entirely, its users’ hardware destiny.
Couple this with the fact that no mobile phone company supports a device for more than a year or two after launch (save for Apple), and you’ve got a recipe that calls for break-neck hardware innovation as the only means of market innovation and differentiation.
Thus, the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 watch only works with Samsung’s newest phones. It relies on Bluetooth LE, so it’s only compatible with hardware that supports that standard. And it runs Tizen.#!Why does it run Tizen? Because Samsung can control this OS and make it go where it wants, rather than waiting for Google to invest engineering time into something only Samsung will need.
But will this work?
The short answer is, no. We’ve sooooo been here before. Anyone remember MeeGo? That was an alternative mobile OS that started out as a phone, then began morphing into tablets, low-cost PCs and, eventually, into nothingness.
How did that happen? Well, initially Intel and Nokia began pouring money into developer conferences for MeeGo. One, which took place in San Francisco around 2011, handed out 10-inch ExoPC tablets like they were candy. At a free developer conference.
Intel then wheeled across town and handed out more free tablets at another mobile summit a week later: sit through an hour-long presentation, get a free tablet. Everyone I knew got one of these things. Not one of them ever developed a single line of code for the thing, unless you count making Linux work on it and editing config files to do so coding.
I never got one, of course, but in the end, it didn’t matter because the platform and hardware are long-since unsupported. And it’s only been four years!
There was also a European MeeGo conference where more tablets were handed out, an entire football stadium was rented out, and another herd of developers got a free day off, free hardware and free food.
Oh yeah: The Tizen Conference party was held at AT&T Park. You may know it as PacBell Park, where the Giants play.
History does repeat. It’s just that the delay between repetitions is getting shorter.