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Samsung Will Put Tizen in Its Televisions. What the Heck Does That Mean?

The open source mobile operating system will supposedly make it easier to use your TV. We shall see.

Electronics giant Samsung has said it plans to run an operating system called Tizen on all of its “smart” Internet-connected TVs this year.

So what is Tizen and why is Samsung putting it in TVs? Unless you have been closely following Samsung’s efforts around Tizen, it might be a bit of a mystery.

Tizen is an open source, Linux-based operating system. It became “Tizen” in late 2011, though it existed in a previous form, LiMo, before then. While technically Tizen lives within the Linux Foundation, it has largely been a pet project of Intel and Samsung.

Tizen was developed partly to provide a kind of unified operating system across multiple tech devices, such as smartphones, wearable devices, car dashboards and, you got it, TV sets. Smart TV interfaces are sometimes poorly designed and confusing. With its upcoming Tizen TVs — which Samsung first showed off last June — Samsung is promising a redesigned interface with better access to content, as well as easier sharing between TV sets and mobile phones.

But Tizen was also created to give hardware makers, like Samsung, options beyond the Google Android operating system.

It’s worth pointing out that Samsung has announced Tizen products before, but has been slow to deliver. A phone was announced for Russia, but then repeatedly delayed. It has used Tizen in some of its smartwatches and in one camera model. The TV could be an easier home for Tizen because Samsung doesn’t need to offer the hundreds of thousands of apps that consumers expect when buying a new smartphone.

Samsung is also not the first electronics manufacturer to roll out a “smart” TV platform based on a mobile operating system. In February of 2013, LG Electronics acquired the webOS operating system technology from HP with plans to incorporate it into its TVs. Those TVs just began shipping last summer. And Google’s Android OS has been built into some television sets.

Samsung — the world’s leading seller of TVs — hasn’t said when its new Tizen TVs will ship, or how much they’ll cost. But we’re expecting to see these TV sets, along with lots of other wares, during the International CES in Las Vegas next week.

Additional reporting by Ina Fried.

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