Samsung Ponders Life after Android

by Matt Klassen on June 19, 2012

Over the past several years I’ve taken a great deal of criticism for my bold predictions about Google’s long term Android strategy. I’ve written at length about Google’s dependence on mobile “losers,” a potentially deleterious situation given any real success among Google’s Android partners would likely spell the demise of the platform. I’ve also written at length about Google’s tacit satisfaction at the general inability of those same partners to achieve any real lasting success, a perpetual mobile market malaise that keeps companies like HTC, Motorola, and Samsung suckling from the Android teat.

My response to the torrent of criticism that has come my way has always been the same, “Just wait and see,” although the time for waiting may soon be over as the first of the Android partners may be planning to leave the fold.

In his inaugural address yesterday Samsung’s new CEO Kwon Oh-hyun dropped some tantalizing hints that his company may in fact be following my prediction to a tee, use Android for a time to generate sufficient revenue in order to abandon the platform altogether.

In his first speech as CEO Kwon spoke extensively about the need for his company to enhance their software capabilities in order to maintain Samsung’s dominance in the tech industry. “A particular focus must be given to serving new customer experience and value by strengthening soft capabilities in software, user experience, design, and solutions,” Kwon stated, unfortunately offering nothing in the way of details for resources to be dedicated to this project or his long term vision.

That said, with Google having now acquired Motorola, and thus now a direct competitor with Samsung, there is a new urgency for the company to find its own feet and reinvest the revenue gleaned from Android in its own competitive mobile OS, as clearly that’s where the mobile money is.

Like Apple, having its own mobile OS would allow Samsung to have proprietary control over the entire device, freeing it from dependence on Google for software upgrades and the like. In addition, having its own mobile OS would further distinguish it from the sea of middling Android partners all running the same fragmented platform.

While it certainly seems like the time is right for Samsung to finally enact the bold prediction I made almost two years ago, the move away from Android towards its own proprietary platform is not without significant risk. In fact, while there’s no question that an in-house platform is the way to make the big mobile bucks, looking at the current mobile landscape one sees more flops than successes in this regard. Notably, companies like Apple, Nokia, RIM, and Palm have all struck out with their own platform in the last several years, with only Apple achieving anything other than an unmitigated disaster.

Further, given the global popularity of Android its not like Samsung could just abandon the platform in one fell swoop, the company likely opting for a graduated phase out of Android devices wherein the company’s wildly successful Galaxy franchise will quietly be shifted over to the company’s own software.

As I’ve said before, Android will continue to thrive for a time even following the inevitable departure of Samsung, but its clear that Google is aware of the potential threat that success with Android will mean for its wide base of currently struggling partners; evidenced no more so than the search engine giant hedging its mobile bets by acquiring Motorola.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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