Linux

Has Samsung beaten Canonical at its own game?

Jack Wallen digs into the upcoming Samsung Tizen release to uncover how the mobile giant managed to beat Canonical to the Linux-phone punch.

Tizen

The Samsung Z is set to hit Russia in the third quarter of the year. This phone is powered by the open source Tizen operating system. For those who didn't know, Samsung has been quietly developing Tizen in the background for three years (Tizen already powers the Samsung Gear watches).

I firmly believe Samsung is testing the Tizen waters to see if the platform could be a viable alternative to Google's Android OS. If any company could pull off such a feat... it would be Samsung. But beyond the implications Tizen has to Android (the most used platform worldwide), what does this mean for the near vaporware status Ubuntu Phone?

Plenty.

While the Ubuntu Phone is still struggling to gain any serious momentum -- anywhere -- Samsung has already set a date for its open-source device. The latest worthwhile news from the Ubuntu Phone camp was March 19, 2014, stating that "big smartphone brands [are] looking 'seriously' at Ubuntu Phone." Prior to that, the big news was that Spanish-based BQ and China-based Meizu announced they were set to release Ubuntu Phone devices "sometime in 2014."

2014 is officially half over.

That silence is fairly damning in a world that demands a constant deluge of updates -- especially when a powerhouse such as Samsung announces they are set to release the first, mass-produced, open source, Linux-based smartphone. Samsung beat Canonical to the punch, and if the Samsung Z does well in Russia, it'll be released to the rest of the world. Should that happen, the likelihood of the Ubuntu Phone having a chance, in an already saturated market, is unlikely.

Think about it this way. The IDC reports:

  • Android powers nearly 80% of the world's mobile devices
  • iOS powers just over 15% of the world's mobile devices
  • Windows phone powers just over 3% of the world's mobile devices
  • BlackBerry powers just under 2% of the world's mobile devices

There is a scant 1% left over for "Other."

Because Samsung already has such a strong presence in the Android market, and because their devices are found everywhere, they could chip away (even slightly) at both the Android and "Other" markets. The Ubuntu Phone will most likely be relegated to the "Other" market. That's not much to pull from. Those low numbers will make it a huge challenge for Canonical and the Ubuntu Phone. To make matters worse, the longer it takes for the Ubuntu Phone to make its way to market, the smaller that user base will be. That's the crux of the issue -- time. Canonical announced its intention to create a Ubuntu Phone some time ago. Since then, it's been nothing but promises and a failed fundraiser for Ubuntu Edge.

The tragedy of this is that the Ubuntu Phone could well be one of the finest mobile devices to date. But because Samsung is going to likely beat Canonical to the punch, that brilliant piece of tech might flounder... simply because it couldn't get into the fight soon enough. And now, with Samsung delivering their own open-source smartphone, the chances they would join in on the Ubuntu Phone fun are pretty much nil.

Don't get me wrong, I would love to see the Ubuntu Phone released and enjoy a massive success. I would personally drop my current device, without hesitation, for an Ubuntu Phone -- but I don't see that happening any time soon. In fact, the likelihood that I could get my hands on a Tizen-based phone seems exponentially greater than the Ubuntu Phone.

Canonical needs to understand that timing is everything in this light-speed paced world in which we live. You cannot announce a product one year and deliver it the next. By the time you release, everyone has already moved on to the next great shiny thing. At the moment, that shiny thing might be the Samsung Z.

At least for Russia.

Will the Samsung Z have a chance in a market that's choked by two major players (Android and iOS)? Or is it already doomed before it hits the market? And does Samsung's release of the Tizen-based phone sound a death knell for the Ubuntu Phone? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

21 comments
knuthf
knuthf

Jolla is not discussed here. With Sailfish being the successor to Maemo and MeeGo (that Samsung also participated in), but Jolla's Sailfish can emulate Android. It can also run the thousands of applications made for the Maemo/MeeGo Linux, made for the highly successful N900 and N9 phone manufactured and sold by Nokia, and terminated by the Microsoft mole hailed in US media as "The Savior". 
To those that know, the reverse pole is the one that drove a highly successful company through the ground in a very short time and the cost to the investors that held shares in Nokia is staggering.

Jacdeb6009
Jacdeb6009

It will be interesting to see what Samsung do with this, however, one should not forget that their business is selling consumer electronics and that this may go the same way as the Android phones from Samsung.  The make neat phones but upgrades to the Android OS are very limited.  Meaning that if you want the latest OS or wish to get the bugs  / flaws patched, it is not possible. "Buy a new phone with the latest OS".  That's the busniess.  Will Tizen be the same?


I will wait and see what Ubuntu has to offer.  For me the alternative isCyanogenmod, that way I am not tied into a hardware upgrade war.

Rangerriffic
Rangerriffic

just saying but it could be that the Ubuntu phone looks too much like a Samsung and that is a big factor in why people don't want it? or the lack of talked of hardware then the released version has not so great hardware

palemale
palemale

I find the glitz of the Samsung phones and tablets very unattractive. I have no reason to expect them to make the Tizen phone any less cluttered with junk than the Galaxy equivalents. Now if I can get the Ubuntu phone software to work on the Samsung hardware...

cmt1
cmt1

Can Ubuntu be run inside a Docker type container on any mobile platform? Now that would be nice if it was possible.

ljb
ljb

My 2c

What everybody seems to forget is, no matter what flavour of Linux you are using, it's open source.
And that says it all, however this is not a fight about that,(btw open source rules!)this is about
A relatively new mobile OS. Which my knowledge tells me, will be great for us consumers.
The more to choose from the merrier. At the end of the day it comes down to personal choice in either
OS, mobile or pc. Except at your workplace, you use the tools that are given to you.

jos
jos

My Linux or BSD PC was never ever been hacked. I expect the same on Ubuntu phone.

If Tizen is the same rock solid, than it's a winner! 

Else I wait for Ubuntu, because I hate  buggy rubbish.

iscope
iscope

After your review, "The Ubuntu Unity Launcher gets a facelift with Unity Drawers", this Mint user is going to give it a go. 

Perhaps Canonical should hook up with the likes of Cyanogenmod and design a root installer that would work on most phones. No small task, and it would have to be idiot-proof. 

Man, two cents doesn't amount to much these days!
OK. Perhaps not.

da philster
da philster

One must remember that Samsung manufactures phone equipment and Ubuntu really doesn't. No matter how good the Ubuntu phone may be, they are operating at a disadvantage at this stage. Notwithstanding, I wish Ubuntu success.

Pob
Pob

Congrats to Samsung.  It beat Canonical to the punch because its CEO, Jane Silber, former defense contract spyware writer for the US DoD, is far too busy masterminding how to best implement the Ubuntu platform for maximum snooping on consumers.  

peter.ua
peter.ua

As anyone who has used a Samsung 'Smart' TV knows Samsung is not good with software. Perhaps the phone group is better. The really bad part of that is the potential bad reputation 'other' OSs could get from the Tizen foray. I too would drop my current [Android] phone in a minute if there was a Ubuntu phone available.

ErikMartinson
ErikMartinson

I believe that Canonical is going the wrong direction. An Ubuntu phone will only grab a very small percentage for the phone market. They should only be developing Ubuntu OS for tablet.

James Stevenson
James Stevenson

It's a shame. The Ubuntu OS for mobile and tablet devices looked rather promising. I think the interface is a lot cleaner than a lot of the Android tablets I see today. It's a shame that Ubuntu Touch (Or whatever they're calling it) hasn't been released properly.

twozero3
twozero3

Sorry to be pedantic but wasn't Jolla the first to release a phone with a new Linux based OS, Sailfish, in November 2013.


http://jolla.com/


In any event Tizen is definitely going to be one to watch. As the article states, if any one has the market presence and momentum to punch through the current dominance of Android and iOS, it's Samsung.

w7hd
w7hd

If they allow existing users to load Tizen on their Galaxy Note 3, Tab 3, etc.  that would totally upset the market.  I'd be there in a heartbeat!

Sorry, Jack, I do NOT like the Ubuntu interface.  I strongly prefer Linux Mint Cinnamon or Mate.


knuthf
knuthf

@twozero3 Tizen is a development of MeeGo, that is the KDE variant of Maemo - those developed between Intel, Nokia and Samsung. So Samsung has been developing Debian/linux phones for a decade.


Tizen is their variant, that Nokia - and thus Jolla, elected NOT to stay with, as here Samsung based the interface to OpenPlasma. Nokia and Jolla, elected to focus on providing a Android bridge - to open for running Android applications. This is the lecture they learned from the N900 (Maemo) and N9 (MeeGo) success. Nokia sold more Linux handsets after terminating the line, than what they sold of the high-end Windows phone, o a disaster to Elop, and the US "analysts"...


Those that believe that Android co-existence is important, should look at Jolla, those that focus just on the look and feel of a device, stunning graphics (like journalists) should go with Tizen and Samsung: OpenPlasma is stunning.

elleno
elleno

@w7hd  Agreed. So weird that Canonical doesn't seem to get it. Its fall from number 1 is absolutely due to the irritating UI. But they don't seem to care.

I use Mint too. 

randall.allan.weese
randall.allan.weese

@w7hd Same here.  I would be very interested in seeing what Tizen has to offer.  Plus competition is always a good thing so I hope that Tizen has some innovative and new ideas to bring to the table.

jasauders
jasauders

@elleno @w7hd Call me crazy but the fact people like Unity these days may be the reason why they seem to "not care" to you. Linux mint may be a nice distro but it by no means compares to Ubuntu in real world usage. Ubuntu has them lapped several dozen times over again. Distro watch is not a metric for accurate metric by the way. 

Old Dog V
Old Dog V

@elleno @w7hd  I dislike the Unity UI intensely, but I now run Ubuntu 14-4, using Metacity UI, and it seems fine so far

knuthf
knuthf

@jasauders @elleno @w7hd -- I use Mint, and follow Ubuntu. Mint is just the same as Ubuntu, but with a clean user interface - no more purple and green with orange boarders, and no more enforced "Unity". I use the OSX line of themes, making the system identical to MacOS, and I guess there are versions of the same for Ubuntu. You wage war and state discontent about technology based on the color of the boarders, and you impress nobody. I respect that you like Munch and I like Gaugin. Art is estetics, and is not related to technology.

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