Samsung has been looking to create its own ecosystem for a while now. Earlier this month, images surfaced of a Galaxy S4 running Tizen 3.0, and Samsung also revealed that its next Exynos processor will feature Heterogeneous Multi-Processing, through which all eight cores will be simultaneously active. Is it a harbinger of things to come?
Samsung is the largest manufacturer of Android handsets in the world, as well as the most profitable. This year witnessed the launch of not one, but two flagships, the Galaxy S4 in March and the Galaxy Note 3 earleir this month at the IFA. The Galaxy S4 broke all sales records by managing to accrue over 20 million sales in the first two months of its availability. The Note 3 will try to achieve the same.
However, most of Samsung’s strong sales can be attributed to the fact that its devices run on Android. While Samsung uses its own TouchWiz skins and has done a great job with the branding of the Galaxy series to such an extent that most users confuse the Galaxy name with that of Android, it does not have a viable product ecosystem. It tried to create one with Bada, and failed. This time around, it is collaborating with the likes of Intel and Toyota in creating a unified ecosystem that can be used across a wide variety of devices. This platform is called Tizen, and it looks like Samsung is well ahead on its way to launch devices that run on this platform.
What is Tizen?
Tizen is an open source software platform that is based on HTML5. Samsung is one of the manufacturers involved in its active development. Tizen is now in its second version, and Tizen 3.0 is slated to be officially launched in 2014. It has been getting a lot of traction ever since Samsung showed off a few images of the Galaxy S4 running Tizen 3.0. The images indicate that the whole UI has been tweaked, and now features a clean design layout that is identical to the Windows Phone UI. Samsung has mentioned that a lot of work has undertaken with regard to making Tizen 3.0 more robust and usable on current-gen mobile devices.
Samsung CEO JK Shin has mentioned that they want to achieve cross-convergence with Tizen so that it works on a multitude of devices across different industries. For instance, Samsung already makes custom software for its series of smart TVs. In the future, it has been indicated that Samsung would use a customized version of Tizen that allows for more connectivity across various devices. For this to occur, Tizen as a platform must be extensible. It faces two challenges in achieving this. The first is that a mobile running a full-fledged build of Tizen should be feature-rich enough that it can contend with the likes of Android. At the same time, Tizen should be able to run on low-end hardware, like car infotainment systems and TVs.
Samsung has already mentioned that it will launch the first Tizen device in October, with an initial rollout in five countries. Rumours indicate that the device will feature mid-range hardware, and that it will go head to head against the likes of the Nexus 4. While it wants to tackle device cross-convergence in the future, Samsung is currently focused on ensuring that Tizen 3.0 works well on mobiles.
Toward that effort, Samsung showcased the Galaxy SIII running a Tizen 3.0 build, which indicates that it is testing the platform on different hardware configurations. The new set of images show off a lock screen that is similar to the one seen on Android and detail the home screen. If Samsung were to launch a device that runs on Tizen, then it would finally be free of Android, and by extension, Google. Samsung has its own app store through which it can effectively distribute apps, games, music and movies, thereby negating the need for Google’s Play Store. It would also be able to funnel more money into its own coffers. Not that it needs to, considering that a survey found that more than half of the manufacturing cost of a Galaxy S4 gets diverted back to Samsung. This is where its strengths as a hardware manufacturer come into the fray.
Samsung’s Exynos line is also gaining ground
While Samsung has also been manufacturing SoCs in-house since 2010, it does not have the same clout as Qualcomm. Qualcomm is the runaway leader in the mobile SoC industry, and its Snapdragon line is used in most flagship devices in the market today, including the LTE version of the Galaxy S4. Samsung did signify its intentions to create powerful hardware by announcing the ARM-based Exynos 5410 Octa, which claimed to be the first octa-core processor in the world. In actuality, the processor only allowed four cores to be active simultaneously. On the 5410 Octa, four 1.6 GHz Cortex A15 cores were used for heavy-duty tasks while four 1.3 GHz Cortex A7 cores were available to handle less intensive tasks.
Samsung announced the next iteration in the line, the Exynos 5420 Octa, which features the same hardware with higher processor clocks. And earlier this month, the manufacturer announced that the 5420 SoC will feature ARM’s big.LITTLE MP architecture that comes with Heterogeneous Multi Processing, which means that all eight cores can be active at the same time. All cores can be used in any setting, unlike the four core limitations seen on the 5410 Octa. Samsung will launch hardware running the 5420 Octa sometime during the fourth quarter. The 5420 also features LTE connectivity, which was sorely lacking in the 5410. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 seems to be the most likely contender, as there is no other device that the manufacturer would launch this year that warrants such high-end hardware. Samsung mentioned that the Note 3 will feature different versions, with each coming with different hardware, so it is feasible that a Note 3 version that will be available in the international market will feature the Exynos 5420 Octa. And befitting its high-end nature, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is priced at $700, although all major carriers will start carrying the device from October for $299.99 on a two-year contract.
With both Tizen and Exynos, Samsung can be truly self-sufficient. The South Korean manufacturer already makes most of the hardware that goes into a mobile. If it manages to make its own ecosystem and a true octa-core processor, Samsung will be nigh on invincible in the mobile industry. Creating a new ecosystem will not be easy, but if there is a manufacturer who can pull it off, it is Samsung.