Samsung sets fire to $9m by throwing it at Tizen devs

Developer outreach failed for WIndows Phone, Firefox OS and BlackBerry. It will work on Tizen why, exactly?

Samsung will throw US$9m at developers willing to have a go at making apps for smartphones running Tizen.

Tizen is now a Linux Foundation project, so enjoys independent oversight and is free to adopt. But that's not helped it to catch on in the smartphone market: Samsung offers a handful of models but hasn't taken them far beyond the Indian or Indonesian markets where it's been baked in decently-specced Z-series handsets that sell around the US$50 mark. Z-series sales are reported to have cracked a million for one or two models, decent sales in India but a drop in the ocean of the 350m-a-quarter global handset market.

Tellingly, India is where Samsung's decided to launch its developer incentive program under which “Every month, each of the top 100 apps downloaded from the Tizen store and pre-registered to participate in the Tizen Mobile App Incentive Program will win $10,000. That $1m-a-month program will run from February to October 2017, making it a nine-month and $9m spend.

Samsung's spinning this as a responsible commitment to expanding the Tizen ecosystem.

But a glance at the Tizen Store suggests the company faces a chicken and egg situation, as while there's a Facebook and WhatsApp app for Tizen, plenty of other big-sellers are absent from the store. Skype, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, for example, are absent from Tizen top download lists. Which means Tizen handsets are less attractive than rivals.

By running a lengthy developer incentive program Samsung looks like it is willing to play a long-ish game as it tries to make Tizen a viable ecosystem. And $9m isn't a lot to spend when a possible prize is showing Google it can't have things entirely its own way as it evolves Android.

But Samsung must surely know its chances of success are slim. Microsoft couldn't generate developer enthusiasm for Windows Phone. BlackBerry once ruled the world and is now an asterisk in market share data. Firefox OS came and went without leaving a ripple. Why should Tizen be any different? ®

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