Sprint still backs Tizen as other carriers waver

Sprint (NYSE:S) is still backing the Tizen Association and just joined as a partner member, contrary to a recent report that the carrier had dropped its support for the fledgling operating system.

Earlier this week the Tizen Association announced 15 new partners who joined the group. The list includes Sprint parent SoftBank, handset maker and network vendor ZTE, Chinese search engine Baidu and others.

Sprint first joined the Tizen Association in mid-2012 as a board member but stopped being a board member in mid-2013, according to Sprint spokeswoman Jennifer Walsh. Sprint then reapplied to be a regular partner member. Walsh said that was a formality and that Sprint has always been supportive of Tizen.

A recent Wall Street Journal report said that Sprint left the Tizen Association last year to focus its resources "on more immediate product launches," according to an unnamed person familiar with the matter.

However, Walsh told FierceWireless that Sprint has been supportive of Tizen from the start and remains so. "We have been engaged as [a] supporter of ecosystems investigating new platforms" and want to be part of the planning and discussion, she said. "That continues." Walsh added that while Sprint is a supporter of Tizen it has nothing to add on when it might launch Tizen-based products.

Samsung Electronics remains the staunchest support of Tizen and the first Tizen phone will likely be from Samsung. The Tizen Association is an open-source group that was created through the merger of the former MeeGo and LiMo platforms. Other Tizen supporters include Intel, Huawei, Orange and Vodafone. Samsung has positioned Tizen as one of its many platform options, but analysts have consistently said Samsung could be using Tizen as a hedge against Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, which is Samsung's bread and butter for smartphones and tablets. (Samsung also supports Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 8 platform.)

Still, Tizen faces an uphill climb. NTT DoCoMo had been expected to announce its Tizen smartphone in mid-January, but has since pushed back its plans to do so. Telefónica also left the Tizen Association and has become a key supporter of Mozilla's Firefox OS, which it is pushing in the low-end smartphone market in Latin America. Orange said the speed of development at Tizen "is not as mature as we may have expected at this point" and an Orange spokesman told the Journal the carrier doesn't have a Tizen device in its current smartphone roadmap. 

The Tizen Association is holding an event just ahead of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, to give a sneak peak at the latest Tizen devices.

ZTE declined to comment on the partnership, according to PC World, but its future phones will still largely use Android, according to a company spokesman. ZTE also supports Windows Phone and Firefox OS.

For more:
- see this release
- see this PC World article 
- see this Engadget article

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