Is Samsung Merging its Smartphone Operating Systems?

By Ariel Jones, Tony Rizzo — January 20, 2012

Late last week Samsung, one of the world's largest smartphone manufacturers, hinted that a merger between the company's 'bada' mobile operating system and the open-source Tizen platform may be in the works.

A successor to MeeGo, Tizen is the result of a partnership between multiple Linux software development groups, including Samsung, Nokia, and Intel. The platform is still in development, but could potentially be used in smartphones, tablets, and netbooks.

Although the company's Senior Vice President Tae-Jin Kang confirmed the initial statements in an interview with Forbes, saying that Tizen would likely be deployed on higher-powered phones and bada would be used on lower-powered phones, the company later issued a statement saying that no definite plans for the consolidation have been announced.

"Samsung and other members of Tizen Association have not made a firm decision regarding the merge of bada and Tizen," Samsung said in a statement. "We are carefully looking at it as an option to make the platforms serve better for customers. As Samsung's essential part of multiplatform portfolio, bada will continue to play an important role in democratizing smartphone experience in all markets. Samsung will also support open source-based development and continue to work together with other industry stakeholders."

One has to wonder why exactly Samsung wants to take this integration route. Bada has been used by Samsung outside of North America to launch lower end mobile devices, but it is not an operating system that will provide Samsung with the flexibility and power of Android.

Tizen, on the other hand, could conceivably serve as an Android replacement. Why would Samsung want to take on what would rapidly become the significant and arduous task of maintaining its own mobile OS? For one thing there is Google's acquisition of Motorola. Samsung may be looking at TIzen/bada from a defensive perspective. The rumors of Samsung looking at Research in Motion as an acquisition have no doubt also been put into play as a defensive effort against Google and Motorola becoming too close relative to Google's Android partners.

Our guess is that Samsung may very well pursue merging bada and Tizen but that it would remain a second tier OS. We do not believe that Samsung will abandon Android or the enormous investments Samsung has made here. 

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