Sorry Samsung, “A lot” is not an acceptable answer to “How many Tizen apps are available today?”
Samsung on Wednesday launched its first smartphone based on the Tizen operating system. While the Samsung Z1 is unlikely to give Xiaomi Redmi 1S and Asus ZenFone 4 sleepless nights in terms of specs, the big story here is of course Tizen.
We first heard about the operating system in 2012, and while Samsung has since successfully shipped Tizen-based wearables and also announced that its 2015 line of smart TVs will run Tizen, the Z1’s launch is a milestone after several false starts and delays.
While Samsung publicly insists that Tizen and Android will continue to co-exist, in an ideal world the company would like to move its entire user base (along with apps and services) from the operating system of Google to the operating system it helped develop from scratch. . Android was a good out-of-the-box (although immature at the time) solution for Samsung when it was looking to enter the smartphone market quickly at the time.
Where would Samsung be today if it had waited to develop its own smartphone OS? Would Android have the reach it has today without such an important partner as Samsung during the formative years? It’s hard to say who benefited the most from the partnership. Despite the success, recent reports have indicated that relations between the two companies have become increasingly strained.
All the while, Samsung has been up against Apple, a company that controls every little detail: from hardware and software, to pre-installed apps, to how its device is sold. While this obviously allows Apple to control the overall end-user experience, it also allows for greater levels of optimization between hardware and software. Other companies have watched this carefully and learned their lessons. Much of the talk around Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s mobile business has centered on maximizing these efficiencies, and it’s clear that this hasn’t gone unnoticed in South Korea either.
At the Z1 launch event in New Delhi on Wednesday, Samsung, faced with the modest specs of the first Tizen-powered smartphone, talked about the optimizations it was able to achieve by working on both hardware and software. While that’s a welcome change for a company that’s usually all too happy to talk about octa-core CPUs and gigabytes of RAM, it seemed like the company wasn’t in the mood to talk about any other numbers.
We asked Asim Warsi, VP, Marketing, Mobile & IT at Samsung India, how many apps the Tizen store has at launch. “A lot,” he replied, laughing. When asked to elaborate on what seemed like a joking answer, Manu Sharma, head of Samsung Mobile, chimed in with a counter-question: “How many apps do you use on a daily basis?” Since that technically wasn’t an answer to our question, we kept pushing. “The Tizen store has an ever-growing number of apps,” Warsi said. Not happy with that either, we asked Warsi if he wanted to put an exact number to the number of Tizen apps available the last time he checked. “I can’t say that,” was the reply.
Well, you could have saved us a few minutes by saying that in the first place.
It’s clear from Samsung’s reluctance to talk about exact numbers that it isn’t happy with the state of things – otherwise there would be a lot of shouting from the rooftops. We don’t necessarily blame the company – getting developers on board a new platform is a difficult task, especially when you didn’t even have shipping product to show off until today. However, not answering the question directly will probably not help anyone.
Let’s face it. Whatever number (of Tizen apps) Samsung hypothetically announced on Wednesday would have paled in comparison to the million-plus that Android and iOS boast today. So, absent a compatibility layer that would have allowed Tizen to (say) run Android apps – which it doesn’t, just in case you were wondering – the “how many apps do you have?” the battle is one no one expected Tizen to win today. We’re happy to give the newcomer to town some slack – but that doesn’t mean the question isn’t relevant.
Knowing how many apps Tizen has today would have told us a few things: how successful has Samsung been in convincing third-party developers to jump on the Tizen bandwagon? Is it easy to develop new applications using the Tizen SDK? How much effort does it take to port apps (say Android) to Tizen? While these topics don’t appear to be directly related to consumers, they all relate to the overall health of the platform – something you invest in when buying a smartphone. Unfortunately, Samsung declined to address any of these topics in what was essentially the global consumer version of its brand new platform called Tizen.
While it’s true that most people don’t use more than half a dozen third-party apps in a day, expect consumers to invest in a platform not knowing what to expect in terms of number and quality of applications is ignorance. at best, and arrogant at worst.