Time is ticking for Tizen, as Japanese network cancels plans to launch first phone

Samsung and Intel are paying the price for making the world wait for Tizen, the joint mobile OS project which has seen several delays, and still doesn’t have a final release date. The number one Japanese network NTT DoCoMo has canceled plans to release a Tizen phone in March, after a spokesperson said the Japanese market, “Is not big enough to support three operating systems at this time.”

NTT DoCoMo is, or was, a major Tizen supporter, and is the only Japanese network listed on the Tizen Association’s board of directors. The network’s director of technology, Ryoichi Sugimura, is one of only four named Tizen officers, alongside representatives from Orange, Samsung, and Intel. It’s fair to say NTT DoCoMo was committed to seeing Tizen succeed. Despite deciding to shelve plans to launch a phone, the network says it will continue developing Tizen and related hardware.

It’s easy to see how the network became disillusioned with Tizen. It joined the Tizen Association at the end of 2012, and talked about plans to release the first smartphone running the OS by the end of 2013. Tizen delays meant a launch had to be canceled in October. The phone was to be built by Samsung, which is keen to reinvigorate falling sales in Japan, meaning the Korean manufacturer has been dealt a double blow here.

Tizen’s mission is to break the hold Android has on the international smartphone market, but in Japan it’s not Android phones which are selling the most, it’s the iPhone. Although NTT DoCoMo says its Tizen decision hasn’t been influenced by the iPhone’s success, it has already been forced to react to the phone’s popularity, after being far later in adopting Apple’s smartphone than its rivals. Japan is now Apple’s biggest market for the iPhone, where it holds a 37 percent market share.

As NTT DoCoMo has strong ties with Tizen, does it know something we don’t? Last we heard, Mobile World Congress was to play host to the unveiling of the first Tizen phone, but if this is the case, surely the network would have held on for another month? If the phone is going to be at the Barcelona show, perhaps it won’t be ready for sale as was clearly hoped. If so, which Tizen supporter will be next to jump ship?

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