Is Android About to Lose Its Biggest Champion?


Samsung may be the current champion of Google Android -- and the only profitable one of the bunch -- but in the end it doesn't want to be tied down. Just how many software partners has Samsung had over the years?

In technical terms, the South Korean giant likes to be "platform agnostic," since hardware is its game. That's why it wasn't surprising to see the OEM expand its Microsoft Windows Phone lineup in the wake of Google's acquisition of one of its rivals. Samsung is one of three primary OEMs pushing Windows Phone 8, along with HTC and Nokia .

That's also why it makes sense that Samsung is planning on launching new devices powered by Tizen, a Linux-based open-source operating system backed by itself and Intel , among others. Intel's only in it with the hopes of getting its chips in the devices, which include smartphones, tablets, netbooks, in-vehicle infotainment systems, and smart TVs.

In a statement to Bloomberg, Samsung confirmed, "We plan to release new, competitive Tizen devices within this year and will keep expanding the lineup depending on market conditions." Samsung relies quite heavily on Android right now to power its hottest devices, which is a risk in itself. So far, Google has done reasonably well in quelling fears that it would give Motorola favorable treatment as a subsidiary OEM, but all the hardware partners that Google hasn't bought can't help but constantly look over their shoulders and prepare a contingency plan in case Big G turns evil.

Just like any investor diversifies their stock portfolio, hardware manufacturers need to diversify their product lineup, especially when they rely on third-party companies for the operating system.

Tizen devices are destined to be the successor to Samsung's Bada platform, even though Bada garnered a higher market share than Microsoft in the third quarter (3% vs. 2.4%). Gadgets running on the new platform are expected to launch in Japan first on NTT DoCoMo's network (another backer of Tizen).

One thing about having a segmented value chain like the Android army is that partners can come and go as they please. Samsung and Android may be cozy now, but Sammy is keenly aware that it needs to build a comprehensive "innovation ecosystem" to remain on top.

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