Docomo postpones Tizen OS mobile handsets for the second time

Docomo postpones Tizen OS mobile handsets for the second time

Below are notes for an interview for the French newspaper LesEchos. The full article can be found here.

On Thursday January 16th, 2014, NTT Docomo announced the postponement of mobile phone handsets based on the TIZEN operating system. This is actually the second time that NTT Docomo has postponed the planned introduction of TIZEN handsets, so it might become doubtful whether NTT Docomo will ever introduce TIZEN handsets.

In the announcement NTT Docomo essentially said that with the current market situation in Japan, it makes no commercial sense for Docomo to introduce a third smartphone operating system to the market.

The French journal Les Echos interviewed me about Docomo’s repeated postponement of TIZEN OS handsets. Here some notes I wrote up to prepare for the interview:

  1. Both for handset makers like HTC or Samsung and it would be a dream to become independent of OS owners/controllers like Microsoft or Google, and for mobile operators like Orange or Docomo, it would be a dream to have an OS they can control, and where they can introduce their own services like Docomo’s “iconcier” personal digital assistant, which is to some extent competing with Apple’s SIRI and with various Google services. Its a dream but realization is a different story. Its not enough to make and further develop and maintain the full OS stack including UI, create a development environment and SDKs as easy to use and competitive with Apple’s and Google’s, app stores, build a developer community who create lots of apps. Its also necessary to make a critical mass of attractive devices, gain a critical mass of market share, create global scale, and most importantly win over all the most important Apps like Facebook, LINE, etc.
  2. With the dramatically increasing complexity and sheer size of software, it becomes harder to bring mobile services to market without global scaleability, or at least a major part of the world, which usually will need to include China. Docomo does not have this global scale, so it will become harder and harder for Docomo to introduce own software services, such as iMode or iConcier.
  3. Docomo has continuously lost market share and recently even net subscribers, and in December for the first time in recent memory succeeded to gain top position in subscriber gains, surely because of the iPhone. In addition, rumors are that Apple demands very high minimum sales shares of operator partners. So Docomo is under double pressure:
    1. to satisfy contract conditions with Apple
    2. to maintain subscriber gains

    in addition, Docomo still has a substantial part of “iMode-keitai”, also called “galake” (= “Galapagos keitai”). So Docomo already has a large variety of OS and handset styles, and has recently reduced the number of different handset it supports, so going to Tizen would go against this trend.

  4. Its not the end of Tizen. Tizen can in addition to smartphones also go into embedded applications such as cars, elevators, washing mashines etc.

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  • g_fasol

    Reader questions from Facebook: “Did you find out how much Docomo spent on developing it? The fact it failed kind of indicates much money must have been spent on it.”

    My answer: Pieter- good question- I’ll try to get a guess, but Docomo probably not that much. For Docomo, Tizen is totally peripheral. Stopping Tizen has no impact on Docomo I think. Tizen is of course Linux, so benefits from the Linux open source community, and a lot of different lines go into the lineage of Tizen. I think the main impact is really that Samsung wants to break free from Google/Android and build its own software platform and its own app store/developer platform ecosystem, to break out from the hardware-for-Android business model. The Tizen delays show that its super difficult to build a third ecosystem – Microsoft has been trying for years, and did not get very far.