Editorial by Luke Jones on Tuesday June 03, 2014.
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Samsung yesterday launched a new device that is the company's first smartphone to be released running the Tizen open source operating system. Of course, that is a departure for Samsung as the company has been heavily entrenched with Android of late; however, the brand has had forays to Tizen recently, too. Most notably Samsung used its homemade platform on its Galaxy Gear smart watches, even moving the wearable products from Android to do so.The Samsung Z is a nice looking device, in the classic candy bar way that evokes an older smartphone feel. The Korean company has obviously consciously steered away from modelling the Z after any of its current Galaxy Android offerings, and that's no bad thing. There is something sharply elegant about the Z even if it is unlikely to win many design awards. Even Samsung's faux leather, something I personally dislike, looks more professional in this squared stance, although it will still divide opinion. Good device or not, does the Samsung Z point to the future of the company and indeed of Android, or is this merely a side project for the electronics giant? Samsung has enjoyed a good relationship with Google and even has a patent sharing deal with the Android company. Samsung has also become easily the biggest brand on Android, a fact that has some at Google concerned. The internet giant is now actively pushing other brands, but also not trying to upset Samsung, its biggest partner. Samsung building away from Android is nothing new; the company has had a few unsuccessful attempts to crack Windows Phone, and before Tizen there was Bada. The reality is that Samsung isn't content to sit around making all Android all the time. Tizen represents something different, and if it proves to be a success, it could point to a radical shift in the mobile space. At the moment, Samsung needs Android just as much as Android needs Samsung. It's a mutual need for either to be successful. However, if Tizen is adopted by enough users, could Samsung be tempted to withdraw from Android entirely and do what Apple does with iOS? It would be a bold move and would not happen for years, but Android's biggest selling manufacturer could well be about to pose a new threat of its own. Samsung has shown with the Galaxy Gear that it will abandon Android if necessary, but would the company ever risk that with its smartphones? Should the Samsung Z prove to successful enough to warrant greater investment, the prospect doesn't seem too crazy in the future.