Samsung says it is pressing ahead with plans to release mobile phones running the Linux-based Tizen OS, with more than one model due to arrive in 2013.
"We plan to release new, competitive Tizen devices within this year and will keep expanding the lineup depending on market conditions," the company told Bloomberg News in an emailed statement. It did not, however, give any information on when the new models would ship or what they might cost.
Samsung is currently the world's largest handset manufacturer with 29 per cent of the market, according to the latest figures from analytics firm IHS iSupply.
At present, most of the smartphones Samsung ships run Android, but rumors that the company has been looking for an alternative to Google's OS have been swirling ever since the Chocolate Factory acquired Motorola Mobility in May 2012.
Samsung does have its own, proprietary smartphone platform in the form of Bada, but handsets running that OS have not proven popular, save for in a few select markets.
The first hints that Samsung was looking to Tizen as a possible replacement for Android came in June 2012, when the mobile maker sunk $500,000 into the Linux Foundation, which oversees Tizen development. The move made Samsung a Platinum member of the Foundation and gave it a seat on its board of directors.
Then in September, hawk-eyed industry watchers spotted a document published by the Wi-Fi Alliance that seemed to indicate that a Tizen-based Samsung handset was imminent. No such device, however, ever made it to market.
Thursday's announcement marks the first time the South Korean company has made an official statement that it plans to release Tizen-based kit.
Just how dedicated Samsung is to the OS, however, or how strategic Tizen is to the company's future plans, remains unclear. Tizen is hardly the only new smartphone OS due to arrive in 2013, nor is it the only one based on Linux and open source code.
Just this week, Canonical announced that it was readying a version of Ubuntu Linux for smartphones. Meanwhile, the Mozilla Foundation is preparing to launch Firefox OS, a group of former Nokia engineers are readying a Linux derivative called Sailfish, and a few volunteers are even working to revive HP's webOS.
Given this abundance of options, about the only thing Tizen would seem to have going for it is its pedigree. It's backed by Intel and includes code derived from multiple earlier open source smartphone operating systems, including Maemo, Moblin, and MeeGo.
Still, none of those platforms was particularly successful, and Tizen appears to offer little that competing platforms don't. For example, its app development model is based on HTML5 and related web technologies – but whose isn't these days?
What's more, the last time anyone heard about any progress on Tizen development was in September, when the project's minders released the alpha version of the Tizen 2.0 source code. Alpha-quality code is generally poorly suited to shipping products, but nothing new has been announced since then.
The smartphone market is fast-moving, however, and Samsung may be hoping that by bringing Tizen-based handsets to market quickly it can give its alternative OS-of-choice a leg up over competing platforms.
If the rumors are true, Samsung may be planning to launch its first Tizen device in partnership with Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo later this year. ®