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Samsung Postpones Launch of Tizen Smartphone in Russia


By Jonathan Cheng

SEOUL-- Samsung Electronics Co. said Monday it would postpone sales in Russia of a smartphone running a homegrown operating system called Tizen, dealing a fresh setback to the Korean smartphone maker's efforts to carve out a niche for itself in mobile software and services.

In a brief statement Monday, Samsung said that it was postponing the launch of the Samsung Z, which was slated to go on sale in Russia in the third quarter of this year.

The company cited a need to "further enhance [the] Tizen ecosystem," a reference to an apparent shortage of apps for the nascent platform. The company didn't offer specifics on any future plans for the operating system, or on the timing of any coming Tizen smartphone launches.

The delay is the latest postponement for an ill-fated project that Samsung has pursued for several years in an attempt to shape more of the user experience--and reap more of the profits--in the smartphone era.

While Samsung handily outsells its handset rivals, almost all of its mobile devices run Google Inc.'s Android operating system, giving the Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant control over most of the activity that takes place on users' devices.

Samsung has in the past attempted to tweak how Android looks and feels on its devices, but the move has been met with opposition by Google, which allows phone manufacturers to use the operating system for free, but which has frowned on significant alterations to its software.

That leaves Tizen as Samsung's main channel for reaching users without Google's intermediation. In the past few months, Samsung has released smartwatches and cameras that run Tizen, and has shown off prototypes of Tizen televisions and smartphones.

At the same time, it has attempted to cultivate a so-called ecosystem of software and services by supporting app developers with contests and, in some cases, direct subsidies to develop apps for Tizen.

However, Tizen smartphones have suffered from a string of last-minute stumbles. In January, NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan's largest carrier, abruptly called off its plans to launch a Samsung smartphone running Tizen. France's Orange SA, another key backer of the project , also shelved its plans.

Just months later, in June, J.D. Choi, the lead Samsung engineer on the Tizen project, stood on a stage in San Francisco and held up a prototype Samsung Z smartphone. He said at the time that the phone would be released in Russia in the third quarter, to audience applause.

But at a developers' conference for Tizen in Moscow earlier this month, the planned rollout of the device was again scrapped at the last minute, leaving developers scratching their heads.

With the latest delay, it is unclear what Samsung's next move will be. Eldar Murtazin, a Moscow-based technology analyst and blogger who first raised the possibility on Monday of further setbacks to the Tizen smartphone, cited unnamed sources who said that the Samsung Z smartphone "won't arrive in 2014 at all" in Russia.

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