Samsung opens Bada: Is another phone OS good thing?

Got Bada? Don’t bother! This just in from Engadget (short version) via the Wall Street Journal (full story).

With Google’s recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility, Samsung has become the leading independent manufacturer of Android phones. In fact, they are in a pissing contest with Apple and they have a real shot at winning! And why not? The largest consumer electronics company is embedding the leading mobile OS without any license fee. They are not only making money phone-over-fist, they are presenting a viable threat to Apple for the brass ring.

But wait! Sammy is not happy.They want to expand their own mobile OS into a market juggernaut. Taking a page from Google, they have just announced plans to open the OS, inviting outside developers to extend and expand. But why? Does the market want another mobile OS? Samsung is a sterling manufacturer. The best. Given enough resources and drive, I have no doubt that they could catch up with Android functions and apps (navigation, media, markets, tools, hot spot feature, etc). But for what purpose? Are they planning to become a Google and replicate the underlying ad-driven business model? Do we want that from an electronics vendor?

I love competition, whether it be in the hardware or OS (mobile platform in this case). But in the past year, we were witnessing a tentative market maturity that foreshadowed the end of fragmentation. With the death of Palm and Symbian, the acquiescence of Blackberry, and the futile “last-gasp” rumination of Windows Mobile, it appeared that we were finally headed for a showdown – or more likely a market duopoly: Google Android -vs- Apple iOS. This congealing of the market will allow for much greater overall sales and it heralds the day when handset manufacturers can show their stripes and reward both users and shareholders. Think of Dell, HP and even Gateway in the heady heyday of the mid 90s. Once that market was firing on all cylinders – and with developers focused on just Windows and Apple, it floated all boats. Last second upstarts were squashed – and rightly so. Imagine the loss of productivity and profits if the market had experienced arrested condensation as it did with HD-DVD and BluRay.

Do you recall DrDOS and HPs desktop OS? Imagine, if a bit later in the desktop OS wars (some point after market maturation), there emerged a 16-bit CP/M or some new desktop OS by HP and Acer. Would it serve any purpose? Perhaps—but only if it brought transformative technology and a credible opportunity for rapid adoption. More likely, it would have simply retarded productivity and gains for everyone.

Please, Sammy, let it be so. I realize that you are a great company and that Korea’s Yin-yang is still rising. But now is not the time to become a Netflix and shoot yourself in the foot. Strengthen your ties with Google. The Motorola acquisition needn’t be a threat. Make piles of cash on great AMOLED Android phones and shelve your plans for an independent hurrah! At least think about it. This play will cause Samsung to lose precious ground.

So sayeth Ellery

Ellery Davies is chief editor of
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