Samsung looks for software boost in smartphones

CIOL Bureau
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HELSINKI, FINLAND: Samsung Electronics hopes to boost its position in smartphones by opening up its software, but analysts doubt it can challenge Apple as the platform favored by application developers.


Samsung, the second largest cellphone maker globally, launched the smartphone platform - called bada - on Tuesday in London and said its strong position in touchscreen devices would help establish it.

Samsung decided to develop its own platform rather than use Symbian, developed by Nokia, or Google's Android to bridge the gap between smartphones and feature phones, said Hosoo Lee, head of the Media Solution Center at Samsung Electronics, said in London.

The focus of the handset market has started to shift to software with Apple and Google entering the market.


Samsung and its local rival LG Electronics, the world's No. 3 handset maker, have been scrambling to make a mark in the fast growing smartphone market.

Ari Virtanen, head of Wireless Solutions at Finnish mobile firm Elektrobit, said: "Unless you have an application and operating system strategy... there is a risk you marginalize yourself as a hardware provider only."

"Bada is needed to fuel the developer community and application creation," Virtanen said.


Samsung and LG have so far relied on selling phones with cameras, and touch screens, but little in the way of extra software and content.

However, Thomas Richter, director of portfolio management Samsung Telecommunications Europe, said he was confident the new platform would give developers features such as connections to social networking sites and flash video technology.

"It will quickly become a major platform in the industry," he said. "Our vision is smartphone for everyone."


Cool Reception from Developers

Analysts and developers said the response was likely to be subdued. Mobile software developers have to make different versions of applications for each platform and operating system, multiplying their cost.


"Bada will face a cynical reception from developers and operators, and Samsung will need to work hard to earn it a substantial position," said Ben Wood, research director at CCS Insight.

Vassili Filippov, chief operating officer of Russian mobile software firm SPB Software, said bada - which means ocean in Korean - needs scale before the company would start to develop for it.

"There are basically two conditions under which we can start coding for bada. First, and it's obvious - it should gain enough market share. Second, we want to make sure that bada is capable enough to allow us to port our key, and quite complicated, applications," he said.


Smartphone sales will grow some 20 per cent or more this year despite the recession crimping consumers spending on more simple cellphone models, industry analysts said.

Next year, falling smartphone prices are set to boost market growth as Nokia and Google push their operating systems to cheaper phones where sales volumes are higher.