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Report: First Tizen-based smartphone could come in 2013

Japan's NTT DoCoMo has signed on to help develop the OS, according to a Japanese newspaper

Japan's biggest cellular network operator, NTT DoCoMo, is working with Intel and Samsung on development of the Tizen operating system and the first smartphone based on the platform could be out in Japan in 2013, according to a Japanese newspaper report.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest circulation daily newspaper, didn't attribute the source of the information, which was published in a report on its website on Dec. 31.

Tizen is a Linux-based operating system targeted at smartphones, tablet PCs and other consumer applications. It is hosted at the Linux Foundation but counts Intel and Samsung among its major backers.

Tizen's backers have said little about commercialization of the OS, but, if successful, it could play a balancing role to Android. The Google-developed OS, which is also based on Linux, has grown to dominate the smartphone sector in just a few years and put a lot of power in the hands of Google.

A Tizen-based smartphone has been expected from Samsung ever since September, when a phone called the "GT-I9300_TIZEN" was listed in a Wi-Fi Alliance document as passing a Wi-Fi interoperability test. GT-i9300 is the model name Samsung gives to Galaxy S3 smartphones. After reports of the document surfaced, it was later modified to delete the Tizen name, but the phone is still expected.

For Samsung, developing a Tizen-based phone is only half the battle. It then has to sell it to cellular network operators, so support from a major carrier like NTT DoCoMo could help Tizen make the jump from engineering project to consumer OS.

NTT DoCoMo had 60.8 million subscribers at the end of November, according to data from Japan's Telecommunication Carriers Association. That gave it a 47 percent share of the entire market.

But even with the support of DoCoMo, Tizen's success isn't guaranteed. The history of smartphone operating systems is littered with failures and the market is getting more competitive with the recent launch of Windows Phone 8 as well as the January launch of the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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