NTT DoCoMo Delays Tizen Smartphone Launch

Japanese operator NTT DoCoMo has cancelled plans to launch a Tizen smartphone in March, according to the Wall Street Journal, delivering another setback for the Samsung-backed open source mobile operating system.

Only two weeks ago, the operator said it expected to release a handset in the next few months, although it refused to commit to that deadline. It now believes that the Japanese smartphone market is not growing quickly enough to support another platform besides Android and iOS.

Tizen is a Linux-based operating system, which is governed by the Linux foundation, and backed by Samsung and Intel. It had been thought that the first Tizen smartphone would be released before the end of 2012, but this never materialised, while NTT DoCoMo once hoped to launch one by the end of last year.

NTT DoCoMo Tizen delay

The attraction for NTT DoCoMo is that Tizen’s open nature will allow it to offer services and applications tailored to the Japanese mobile market. This is not a small thing: Japan’s market has evolved so differently to the rest of the world due to different consumer tastes, that it has been likened to the Galapagos Islands.

Indeed, until very recently, the operator refused to stock the iPhone and hoped that Tizen and its associated services would tempt customers away from its rivals. However, last year, it finally relented and agreed to offer the iPhone 5S and 5C, saying it could no longer ignore Japan’s bestselling smartphone. The iPhone controls 37 percent of the market and the country is Apple’s fastest growing territory.

The operator stresses that the decision to offer the iPhone has not affected its decision to delay the launch of Tizen hardware and says it will continue to contribute towards the development of the platform.  After all, Roy Sugimura, NTT DoCoMo’s director of technology planning, is chairman of the Tizen Association.

Tizen smartphone launch

Samsung and Intel are the biggest backers of Tizen, which is one of a number of open source operating systems hoping to offer an alternative to the likes of iOS, Android and Windows Phone, with Firefox OS, Sailfish OS and Ubuntu Mobile all in various stages of development.

The Korean manufacturer is expected to launch a Tizen smartphone and possibly a marketplace at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona next month.

The Linux Foundation, which oversees the Tizen project’s code, says the main advantage of the operating system is that it is truly open source and manufacturers can make alterations to the interface without affecting compliance and compatibility standards – unlike Android.

Analysts believe that Tizen has the best chance of the four platforms of making an impact on the global smartphone market, partly due to its expected popularity in Asia, thanks to the support of Samsung, Huawei and Fujitsu among others.

How do the open source phone rivals stack up?

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Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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