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Linux-based Tizen mobile platform lives!

Samsung could soon ship actual phone

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The Linux Foundation has released the source code and SDKs for the first alpha version of Tizen 2.0, its Linux-based smartphone OS, further fueling speculation that Samsung might be close to releasing a handset based on the platform.

You could be forgiven for assuming Tizen was dead in the water – if you've heard of it at all. It's a combination of Nokia's Maemo, Intel's Moblin, and the two companies' joint MeeGo project, none of which enjoyed any market success. We've heard nary a peep about it here at El Reg since the Linux Foundation announced it last September, and no phones running the OS are available commercially.

But rumors abound that Samsung has been sniffing around Tizen as a possible alternative to Android. The buzz began in earnest in June, when the Korean mobile maker donated $500,000 to the Linux Foundation to become one of only seven corporate platinum members – reasons unspecified.

Then earlier this month, the Wi-Fi Alliance published a document certifying that a Samsung handset named the "GT-i9300_TIZEN" had passed its interoperability tests.* GT-i9300 is Samsung's internal model number for the Galaxy S III, prompting speculation that the company may be readying a version of that phone for the open source OS.

Samsung itself has made no specific commitment to ship devices running Tizen, but it has never been shy about trying out new mobile platforms. In addition to Android, it has shipped phones running Symbian, Windows Phone, and its own Bada OS, and at one point it was even rumored to be mulling a BlackBerry license (though Samsung denies it).

The alpha release of Tizen 2.0 is perhaps the firmest evidence yet that there is still life in the Linux-based platform, lending further credence to the idea that it might actually be worth Samsung's time.

According to a blog post announcing the release, the new version of Tizen includes an improved web framework offering better support for HTML5 and other web standards, plus device APIs for handling file transfer, power control, and notifications. Accompanying the release is an IDE and SDK for developing web applications to run on Tizen, plus a new SDK for native platform development.

"We look forward to getting feedback and making additional enhancements to Tizen over the coming months," the Linux Foundation's release note says. "There are additional components that we plan to add in the coming weeks, and we will continue to fix bugs and add additional features."

Of course, Tizen isn't the only Linux-based mobile OS floating around out there, nor the only open source one. Android itself runs on a modified Linux kernel, as does HP's webOS (recently open sourced) and the Mozilla Foundation's promised Firefox OS, in addition to other minor players.

The one thing that all but Android share in common is that no one is going to take them seriously until handsets running them are actually available in stores. If Samsung is actually close to releasing a Tizen phone, what was once an all-but-forgotten platform could be poised to surge to the head of the pack. ®

* Bootnote

The Wi-Fi Alliance has since modified its certificate to list the new Samsung handset as model number GT-i9300Z, but a copy of the original version is still available in Google's cache.

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