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Is the Samsung Z smartphone just delayed -- or doomed?

Matt Hamblen | July 29, 2014
The launch of the Samsung Z, the first smartphone to run the Tizen OS, has been delayed indefinitely.

Google publicly thanked Samsung for its contribution of Knox software to all of Android. "We really want to thank Samsung for [carrying over] Knox to all of Android," Google executive Sundar Pichai said in a keynote address. "There will be one consistent experience."

The delay of the Samsung Z smartphone occurred sometime between the June 3 debut and the July 11 event in Moscow. The Google announcement about Knox took place during that five-week stretch.

Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar WorldPanel, said that Samsung and Google actually penned a patent agreement over Google's use of Knox software. "That deal was actually a surprise, as it indicated the two companies were getting closer," she said.

Samsung then announced the Russia launch of the Samsung Z smartphone, delayed that launch and then today said the move was related to the Tizen ecosystem.

"It seems strange that Samsung is surprised" about a lack of Tizen apps, Milanesi said. "This is not the first time the Tizen phone was delayed, and the lack of apps should not come as a surprise, given that developers usually follow the 'build it and they will come' mantra. You need sales to get developers!"

Milanesi said the Samsung Z's delay is due to a combination of factors, not just a shortage of apps. Many of Samsung's moves with announcing or delaying the Z smartphone come from a deep-seated concern with how Samsung views its relationship with Android, and therefore, Google.

"Samsung is still not sure they want to risk what they have on Android," Milanesi said. "Samsung also recognizes their need to stand on their own two feet with Tizen, so to speak, but they also know that consumers want Android."

Currently, Samsung makes the most Android phones on the market, including the Samsung Galaxy S5 and others, and is the biggest producer of smartphones globally, with about a 33% market share. Samsung creates a variant of pure Android with its devices, and also has its own proprietary browser and supports a number of Samsung-only apps for fitness and other purposes. Google objects to this approach, privately, and has very publicly promoted pure Android phones like the Nexus line.

In addition to Samsung's recognition of the value of Android, wireless carriers are "not entirely sure that Tizen will sell over Android since the ecosystem is not ready," Milanesi added.

"Samsung is in a tough spot as they want to own more of their ecosystem, but continuing to fork Android is not necessarily less risky than Tizen or less demanding from an investment perspective," she said. "Samsung's differentiating on Android is becoming more difficult as proven by the integration of enterprise features that Knox had as a differentiator" from pure Android. "But going with something that consumers do not know, even it looks a lot like Android, is still a risk. "


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