Samsung bada emerges as unlikely nightmare for Android
Can anybody stop Android in its smartphone tracks? As Sony Ericsson put WP7 on the back burner, at least for this year, it seemed to be just another s
Published: 18 May, 2011
Can anybody stop Android in its smartphone tracks? As Sony Ericsson put WP7 on the back burner, at least for this year, it seemed to be just another sign that Google is unstoppable. A new wave of operating systems, such as Chrome OS and MeeGo, may thrive in next generation cloud devices, but while mobile products retain ‘fat OSs’ and app stores, Android will be king. That view is hard to argue against, if we start from usual assumptions – that Apple will lose a bit of ground and RIM quite a lot, while WP7 will be the main multiplatform challenger.
In that scenario, the risks for the Microsoft platform are high. It has scored the largest vendor of them all in Nokia, but will have to wait for a year before a full range of devices is available – a year in which Android will grow, Nokia’s brand will further degrade, and other WP7 supporters may well go cool on the OS, despite its many attractions, just because it is now the Nokia platform. Sony Ericsson and Motorola have already sidelined WP7 (though neither were ardent Windows supporters to start with), but Microsoft will be more concerned by signs that LG and Samsung are also defocusing. LG is particularly serious as, two years ago, it appeared to be the Windows giant’s new best friend, promising no fewer than 20 Windows Mobile devices within two years. And even HTC might get less keen on Windows if its market lead in the segment is stolen by Nokia, or if the Finnish giant gets preferential treatment on the new platform.
Against this backdrop, a report from Pyramid Research, predicting that WP7 would overtake Android to become the leading smartphone OS from 2013, was met with widespread disbelief. The analyst firm’s conclusions were based on the reasonable notions that Nokia’s brand is strongest in the huge markets where smartphones are just poised to take off in 2012 and beyond – when the firm’s WP7 handsets will be launching. The argument is logical, but does not take account of the current unsuitability of WP7 for low cost devices (though Microsoft does have a partnership program geared to China), nor of the rising influence of OEMs like ZTE, brandishing Android in emerging economies.
However, the very memory of how quickly Nokia/Symbian lost their dominance reminds us not to make assumptions when it comes to mobile platforms. WP7 is a strong user experience and Nokia has massive scale and reach, so it should not be written off. But there is another challenger which could prove more troublesome to Android – Samsung’s ‘second OS’, bada, which is gaining ground, rapidly if quietly, and could conceivably become the Korean giant’s ‘first OS’ as it seeks a greater degree of self-determination and differentiation in the handset world.
Samsung was a slow starter in smartphones but used the appeal of Android effectively when it came to its breakthrough product, Galaxy S, which showcased all the vendor’s best strengths (Super AMOLED display, speedy processor, plenty of video content, numerous distribution and price options). However, its bada phones, though less heavily marketed, sport many of the same advantages, usually at a lower price point. When the software platform launched two years ago, it seemed odd that Samsung was bothering with a homegrown system, and it was relegated in most minds to the role of second fiddle, targeting certain Asian markets or emerging economies.