Samsung to Open-Source Bada OS, Reduce Reliance on Android

Samsung Electronics reportedly plans to open its Bada mobile operating system to other manufacturers and software developers in 2012, a measure to accelerate growth of the smartphone platform while also distancing the company from its reliance on Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android OS.

Citing a source familiar with Samsung's plans, The Wall Street Journal reports the company has no plans to acquire a software company or mobile operating system, instead betting it can expand Bada beyond smartphones to so-called smart TVs and other connected devices by opening the platform to partners. The approach worked famously for Google, which made Android available as an open-source platform at launch -- roughly three years later, Android is the largest mobile OS worldwide, commanding 48 percent of the global smartphone market according to data issued last month by Canalys. (Samsung is presently the world's largest Android vendor, Canalys adds.)

Samsung introduced Bada in late 2009, targeting Europe and emerging markets. The manufacturer has not yet introduced a Bada device for the U.S. market. According to market research firm Gartner, Bada powered 1.9 percent of all smartphones sold globally in the second quarter.

"Hardware vendor-controlled platforms that move from closed to open do not have a great track record in the past. Nokia (NYS: NOK) failed dismally with Symbian, for example," Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston tells the WSJ. "For Samsung to be successful with opening Bada it will need to be launched in the United States market, because that is where the most powerful developers and consumers are found. If Bada does not get traction in the huge U.S. market, then the odds will be stacked against success."

Samsung's future plans and continued commitment to Android have been the subject of considerable speculation in recent weeks, especially in the wake of Google's agreement to acquire Motorola Mobility (NYS: MMI) for roughly $12.5 billion. Google has promised Android will remain open, but analysts speculate that manufacturers building Android devices may not enjoy the same technological support and access given to Motorola once the company is absorbed into the Google family.

There's also the question of whether Samsung wants to continue mortgaging its future on Android when the platform is facing so many questions over patent rights. Apple (NAS: AAPL) has already targeted Samsung with legal action, alleging that its Android products copy Apple designs and is seeking a worldwide sales ban -- Samsung has responded with a countersuit of its own, contending Apple is in violation of its wireless technology patents.  

Samsung recently denied reports it would bid to acquire Hewlett-Packard's webOS mobile platform. "It's not right that acquiring an operating system is becoming a fashion," Samsung CEO Choi Gee Sung said during the recent IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, adding the company is working to boost its software capabilities "harder than people outside think."

Separately, Samsung Telecommunications America named former Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) executive Kevin Packingham to be its new senior vice president of product innovation. Packingham, who was at Sprint for 11 years before becoming CEO of lobbying and consulting firm Amerilink Telecom, replaces Omar Khan, who left Samsung in July to head Citigroup's mobile solutions business.

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