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Samsung to drive growth of new Tizen OS in 2013

Call it a hedge. According to Businessweek, Samsung has said that it will bring out "new, competitive" phones based on the Tizen OS this year, giving the world's largest mobile-phone maker a modern, in-house alternative to operating systems controlled by Google and Microsoft.

Samsung's declined to confirm the Businessweek story, but it's perfectly plausible, and I suspect the response I got came because it's the middle of the night in Seoul and they can't get anyone at headquarters to respond right now.

Samsung is a smartphone giant, but it's mostly dependent on others for its mobile platforms. The company makes dozens of different models powered by Google's Android, including its successful Galaxy S line. Samsung also built a range of Windows Phone 7 devices, before turning lukewarm on Windows Phone 8 with a single phone (the Ativ S/Ativ Odyssey).

But the company understands that you're vulnerable if you're entirely dependent on others. So, a while ago, Samsung developed bada, a quasi-smartphone OS that found some success. In the third quarter of 2012, bada had a 3 per cent global market share, beating Symbian and Windows Phone, according to Gartner.

The bada effort merged into Tizen, which had already swept up a bunch of other Linux-based OS efforts including Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin (which together became MeeGo) as well as the Linux Foundation's LiMo.

Samsung's support for Tizen puts the OS leagues ahead of other new mobile OS projects such as Firefox OS, the brand-new Ubuntu for Phones and Jolla's Sailfish OS, none of which are available on any current devices. We've heard previously about a ZTE Firefox phone and a Jolla phone coming in 2013, but Firefox isn't so far a core OS for ZTE, and Jolla is tiny.

Still, Tizen's partners have made promises they haven't delivered upon. At CES last year, Intel said it would "move a lot faster" and that Tizen tablets might appear in 2012. That didn't happened.

On 31 December, 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said Samsung's Tizen phones would come to Japan's largest wireless carrier, NTT DoCoMo. There's been no word yet on Tizen's future plans for the UK - its 2012 bada phones made it to the UK, with the Wave Y is available on PAYG from Phones 4u, so we'll assume we're in the picture until we hear otherwise.

Samsung also hasn't given any details on the timing or specific models of upcoming Tizen phones.