A new version of Samsung's Gear smartwatch will run the company's Tizen software instead of Google's Android operating system, people familiar with the matter said.
Samsung will unveil the device at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, the people said. Samsung also has been working on a Tizen-based smartphone to introduce at the show, as well as other Tizen devices for the first half of the year, people familiar with the products said.
However, Samsung's plans still could change, and the Galaxy S5 will be the star of the show at Samsung's Unpacked event on Monday. The company also is developing other wearables, such as fitness bands, that it may show at Mobile World Congress or in the coming months, sources said.
In response to an inquiry about Tizen on its new smartwatch, Samsung said it doesn't comment on rumors or speculation.
USA Today earlier reported the Tizen-based Gear news.
Samsung -- which sold one out of every three smartphones globally last year -- has been making a big push to develop its own software and services. The company has acknowledged time and again that it's no longer enough for it to be a strong hardware company; Samsung also needs to offers software and services to avoid being hurt by the commoditization of mobile devices.
Tizen has been one way Samsung is attempting that. The Korean electronics giant has been working on the open-source software for months. Samsung has viewed Tizen as an alternative to Android and a way to lessen its dependence on Google. However, development has faced some hiccups, such as Japanese carrier partner NTT DoCoMo calling off its plans to offer a Tizen phone by the end of March.
Samsung initially planned to launch a high-end, Tizen-powered handset by September of 2013, but it delayed the release by several months to the fourth quarter. Then in November, Samsung said it would introduce a Tizen smartphone in February. The company has been relatively quiet about Tizen of late, and questions have emerged about whether the company would continue pushing the operating system or form even closer ties with Google and Android.
For Samsung, introducing Tizen on its smartwatch could be a smart move. It could allow users to get familiar with Tizen, as well as give Samsung more control over the software. And the software running on the first Gear is hardly recognizable as Android; its tile structure almost looks like the Windows Phone operating system. Other popular wearables makers, such as Pebble, use their own software on their devices and have had no trouble getting the gadgets to work with Android products.
And while Tizen's lack of certain apps may be noticeable on smartphones, that may not be the case on a companion device like a smartwatch. Galaxy Gear users already have a limited number of apps they can use as Samsung has closely controlled and curated what apps can appear on the first version of the smartwatch. Apps are made specifically for the Gear and have to be downloaded from Samsung's app store. Users likely wouldn't notice the difference between a Tizen-powered or Android-powered smartwatch.
CNET will bring you all the updates from Barcelona.
Update at 3:55 p.m. PT with Samsung declining to comment.