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Tizen generating early momentum among developers

Appcelerator, Appbackr join Samsung, Intel and others in supporting new smartphone OS

It's still early days for the open source mobile OS known as Tizen, but Ahmet Yildirim may be among the first developers who can say he's created an app for it that earned him something worth hundreds of dollars.


Yildirim recently became the grand prize winner of an Intel Core i7 desktop as part of a contest sponsored by the chipmaker for writing about his experience porting his HTML5 game, LunarCannon, from Nokia's now-abandoned MeeGo platform to Tizen. Yildirim, who is a freelance developer working in Istanbul, Turkey, said the process took only a matter of minutes and he sees great potential in the OS, which could power apps on everything from phones to tablets and even TVs.

"There is a huge demand towards HTML5 mobile application development, which offers easy cross-platform implementation," he said. "When you have only one user interface that is popular enough to become standard, it brings all the development power in one particular area rather than having each developer eco-system investing in their own user interface libraries (and) trying to make them faster and better."

Support around Tizen crystalizes
It may time some time and considerable effort, however, for Tizen to become that kind of standard. The platform, which is being pushed along by a wide array of handset manufacturers and carriers, announced the Tizen 2.0 source code and SDK, code-named Magnolia, in late February, but it was still in alpha as of last September. The native framework in the Magnolia release includes full-screen and multi-window support, device APIs for Bluetooth and NFC support and a variety of other features.

Engadget offers a brief look at Tizen's user interface.

Tizen made a high-profile impact last week at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, with Samsung and Intel discussing the platform and France's telecom arm, Orange, committing to launching Tizen-based phones later this year. Huawei and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) are among the other vendors who belong to a consortium that are helping contribute to the development, marketing and adoption of Tizen by carriers and users. A key area, however, will be reaching out to developers and convincing them that Tizen has the potential to compete with the likes of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, to which it is often compared, and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS.

Appbackr CEO Trevor Cornwell


Amid the Tizen talk at MWC 2013, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Appbackr Inc. said it is creating a new machine learning algorithm or "appscore" that would look specifically at ratings, updates and other data around HTML5 apps, which would help groups like the Tizen Association identify apps with high potential so developers can be recruited to optimize them for the platform. Appbackr CEO Trevor Cornwell said while Tizen's coming of age may not happen overnight, the OS offers considerable opportunities to developers and smartphone makers.

"The fact that it's a Linux initiative is significant. There is deep trust there, which is helpful," he said. "There is also tremendous support from the infrastructure players like Samsung, like Intel, in making it successful. There are resources to make this go. Tizen also goes beyond what you can do in other places. There is the opportunity to have control over the device in ways that aren't permitted on iOS and on Android."

Vendors add Tizen support to their products
Appcelerator, based in Mountain View, Calif., said last week it would add Tizen support to its mobile development platform by the end of this month, along with a common application store for all Tizen-based devices by May. The company will also collaborate with the Tizen Association to offer incentives to developers who move the first 500 apps to the OS.

"You need to reach your customers or audience where they are," said Appcelerator co-founder and CTO Nolan Wright, "So as Tizen gains market traction, developers will need to target it." Tizen could gain meaningful traction over the coming quarters, Wright added, though adoption will remain its biggest challenge in the short term.

Yildirim said that even with powerful vendors behind it, the industry has many other "to-do" items he believes are critical to the platform's future. "The first one is to make it capable with as many smartphones as possible. By capable, I mean OS installation, not application portability to other platforms. Considering Samsung is involved in the project it is not hard to get this done," he said. "The next thing is to replace (Adobe's) PhoneGap and surpass it--releasing HTML5 libraries for iOS and Android platforms that allow using native features. By doing so Tizen can become much more popular among iOS and Android developers."

The real differentiator for Tizen, added Cornwell, may end up being its ability to let apps cross devices, offering user experiences that haven't been possible before.

"There's a need for apps to go from your handset to your tablet to your computer," he said. "Having portability across all three of those things is now so integral it could make Tizen a natural choice."