Is Samsung Interested in webOS?

by Matt Klassen on August 31, 2011

With Google’s recent acquisition of Motorola, the departure of Apple’s long-time CEO Steve Jobs, and HP’s recent well-publicized failure with webOS, its clear that the mobile market is in a state of flux. While some may shy away from such instability there are others who capitalize on this transitional phase to capture increased market share and rise to the top of pile, and Samsung is a perfect example of this.

In addition to the unveiling of its new ChatOn instant messaging service designed solely to compete with RIM’s BBM and amidst the latest announcement that Samsung is set to release a 4G LTE compliant line of its wildly popular Galaxy devices, the Korean tech company has surfaced as a potential candidate to acquire webOS, which I would wager HP is trying to offload at a bargain basement price.

But with Samsung already experiencing great success with its Android-based Galaxy devices, would it want the hassle of managing three (don’t forget Samsung’s own Bada OS) operating systems?

While nothing is confirmed, if there was one company that conceivably could turn webOS into a moderate success story, my money would be on Samsung. The company has shown the ability to manage multiple mobile ecosystems, and while Bada is nothing compared to Android, it is finding success in several other global markets. But still, why would Samsung need another mobile OS?

The answer to that question is deceptively simple, Samsung needs protection against Google. Despite the fact that Google has publicly declared its intention to continue to treat all its Android partners equally, the truth is that there is a significant conflict of interest in the Android camp as Motorola now holds a special place in the search engine giant’s heart. 

To that end, a report from tech site DigiTimes states that Samsung may be looking to acquire webOS as yet one more tool to compete against Apple and other Android manufacturers in a North American market where its own alternative OS Bada has almost no footprint. Further, as I’ve written before, the real mobile money is in the operating system, and companies like Samsung won’t want to suckle at Android’s teet forever.

In a market where Apple has iOS, HP has its endless supply lines, where Nokia will soon have WP7, and where Motorola now has, obviously, Android, Samsung is the only strong competitor among this group that lacks a means of differentiating itself from the pack, which might be exactly what webOS could provide.

Further, in an era of patent lawsuits, analysts are speculating that the acquisition of webOS may offer Samsung a modicum of protection, especially from the continuous legal onslaught from Apple.

Simply put, despite my claims that webOS was indisputably dead following the HP debacle, it may still have enough life left in it to help a company like Samsung differentiate itself from the mobile pack. Of course this still leaves the question, “with two notable failures, does anyone really want webOS to come back?”

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