March 3, 2013 By: Haroon Q. Raja
This year’s Mobile World Conference was different from most. There were still all the device presentations, announcements, and revelations that we’ve come to expect from the biggest tech event of the mobile industry each year. What’s different was that this time, the spotlight wasn’t taken by hardware, but rather by software—and for good reason. After all, it isn’t every day that three upcoming mobile operating systems backed by big names like Samsung, Intel, Mozilla, and Canonical are showcased at the same event. Apart from Mozilla’s Firefox OS and Canonical’s Ubuntu Touch, MWC 2013 also saw Samsung and Intel finally showcase Tizen OS running on actual hardware.
Among all contemporary mobile operating systems, Tizen OS has had perhaps the most tumultuous and complex history. First there was Nokia’s Maemo and Intel’s Moblin, before the two companies decided to combine them together into MeeGo, in collaboration with many major hardware and software partners. Then Nokia decided putting all its eggs in Windows Phone’s basket, and abandoned the platform after releasing the amazing N9 running MeeGo with Nokia’s Harmattan UI that won hearts of users and critics alike, despite not making many sales due to Nokia’s abandonment. While all this was occuring, Samsung had also decided to build an open OS of its own in order to decrease its dependence on Android, and the result was Bada. After Intel’s abandonment, the future looked bleak for MeeGo, and it indeed proved out to be so as well. The OS was shortly abandoned completely by all other supporters as well, and Tizen was born under the patronage of The Linux Foundation. Later, Samsung decided to join the picture as well, with an aim to merge Bada with Tizen.
After being in works for several years under all the different names, it was actually disappointing to see what was showcased at the MWC demo. With a conventional home screen that seemed to be nothing more than a mere grid of icons and an overall UI not too different from Android’s, Tizen seems to bring nothing new to the table that might lure users into switching to it when devices running the OS show up in the market. Granted it’s still in the making and what was demoed was essentially an early preview, it came nowhere close to what Canonical showcased in Ubuntu Touch.
The experience offered by the OS running on the demo devices was sub par at best, being laggy as well as lacking anything truly special and intuitive that’s not already out there. For an OS that has been in the making for several years by now and has major names of the industry backing it, this seems nothing short of inexplicable. One good thing was the announcement of the Tizen 2.0 Magnolia SDK being made available for developers to start working on apps for the OS. That said, there’s still a long way to go before we start seeing devices running Tizen hit the market. There have been no official time frames announced in this regard, but it is expected to be late 2013 by earliest. Also, since Bada is essentially being merged into Tizen, many are speculating whether Samsung will decide to abandon the devices running Bada, or upgrade them to the new platform in the future.
Here at XDA, we get excited about any development in the smartphone industry, especially when it’s an open-source mobile operating system aimed to offer a completely open alternative to Google’s semi-open Android ecosystem. We have also merged our Tizen and Bada forums to consolidate development for them under once roof, where you can also join several discussions about the OS.
You can learn more about Tizen and download its SDK from the Tizen website.
The day so far at CES has been filled with product announcements that, while exciting, don’t excite us in the mobile development realm. Monster called up a cauldron of celebrity soup to hawk their headphones, people like Alicia Keyes and Xzibit—Yo Dawg, I heard you like celebrities…
However, Netgear claimed that 802.11ac is here, and any mobile device announced from here on out will have 802.11ac capabilities. They also announced that they are “doing Google TV right” with their NeoTV Prime.
At a different event, Intel began by talking about their next generation “Bay Trail” quad-core Atom processor, as part of their next generation tablet platform. The devices they showed mostly ran Windows 8, but this will presumably also include Android in the future. Will Bay Trail usurp the next generation Qualcomm Snapdragon, Samsung Exynos, and the rest of the mobile SoC army? We will have to wait until the 2013 Holiday Season to find out.
Additionally, Intel talked at length about convertibles. No, not cars. Tablets that can have their keyboards folded away or removed completely. Intel announced that all future convertible or tablet devices with their x86 Core processors must support touch and Intel Wireless Display technology. Finally, Intel made a grand statement about perceptual computing, which enables you to access your devices (including tablets) with your voice, multitouch, or vision. They claim their facial recognition log in cannot be defeated with a photo, but they did not prove it.
All told, Netgear having a stab and Google TV may just be the push that product needs. There is a lot of cool stuff we at XDA can do with Google TV and Android. Furthermore, Intel’s new Atom line may help it break into the mobile market, but I doubt it will make much of an impact this year.