Samsung plans to launch its first cell phones this year based on Tizen, a Linux-based operating system that will principally rival Google's Android OS.
Tizen is being developed by Samsung and Intel in part to reduce their reliance on Android, which now powers around two thirds of all smartphones sold today. Apple's iOS is the second most-popular mobile phone OS on the market, but it is not available to third-party manufacturers.
The South Korean company is the single biggest cell phone manufacturer, so its support alone would give Tizen a strong first step into the market. But what type of phones will run the OS and how many of them there will be were absent from a statement that Samsung issued Thursday.
"We plan to release new, competitive Tizen devices within this year and will keep expanding the lineup depending on market conditions," it said in an email quoted by Bloomberg News.
Last week a Japanese newspaper reported that NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest cellular carrier, had agreed to support Tizen and planned to launch a phone based on the platform this year.
Samsung's statement also comes a day after Canonical said it plans to launch a version of its Ubuntu Linux OS for smartphones. Ubuntu will be promoted to phone makers this year and could begin appearing in handsets late this year or early in 2014.
Together, the Tizen and Ubuntu announcements set the scene for an interesting 2013 in the cell phone market, especially when framed alongside the recent launch of Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10, which will be launched by Research In Motion on January 30.
A critical question for all four new competitors is the availability of popular applications. Microsoft is pushing developers to produce Windows Phone 8 versions of some of the most popular cell phone apps and today, a couple of months after launch, users can find versions of many in the Windows Store.
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 [email protected]