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How Samsung Could Threaten Google, Inc.'s Android With One Swift Move

By Daniel Sparks - Mar 12, 2014 at 10:00AM

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Tizen doesn't look like a threat to Google's Android now, but it may not always be this way.

Samsung's Tizen is more than a hobby project. The company has ambitious goals for the open operating system. In fact, Samsung eventually wants Tizen on everything that it makes, including smartphones. While that wouldn't change the competitive landscape much for Apple ( AAPL -1.17% ), it would have a significant impact on Google's ( GOOGL -0.68% ) Android. A simple move by Samsung to shift its smartphone operating system from Android to its own Tizen could threaten Android's dominance.

Image source: Tizen's official blog.

Samsung wants greater control
While Google does enable forked versions of its open Android operating system, Samsung is positioning itself to take a tip from Apple and bring both software and hardware together under its own roof in an integrated approach for even greater control. This control could help Samsung take Tizen to a large consortium of its products in industries as far-fetched as cars, bio, and banks, Samsung co-CEO J.K. Shin told CNET last year. A cross-convergence Tizen platform would make sense for the company, considering it has a large variety of products under its name.

Threaten 40% of Android's annual shipments?
Already, Samsung is using its Tizen mobile operating systems in its line of Galaxy Gear smartwatches. The Tizen operating system for the watches is backed by Intel as the two companies collaborate to see Tizen through. Already, this is somewhat of a blow to Google. Google recently said it would introduce its own Android software development kit for wearable devices in the coming weeks. Without Samsung, Android will be missing out on a major original equipment manufacturer.

The Galaxy Gear 2 runs Tizen. Image source: Samsung.

But the real threat of Tizen for Google is in smartphones. Samsung accounted for a commanding 39.5% of global Android shipments in 2013, according to estimates from IDC. One swift move by Samsung to run Tizen on all new Samsung smartphones could (in theory) shift about 40% of Android's current annualized shipments to Tizen.

Is a swift move like this really possible? Considering that Tizen looks and feels like Android, it's certainly possible Samsung could make the shift -- though it wouldn't be easy.

But considering the breadth of Google's well-positioned apps, services, and ad network, Google would likely still find ways to carve out a prominent place on the Tizen operating system. So, it's too early to adjust any thesis for Google stock based on this threat -- but it's a threat Google investors should keep an eye on.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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