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Samsung beefs up mobile OS initiative

Posted: 12 Dec 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile software? market cellular? WiMAX?

Samsung Electronics announced it will expand the list of mobile OS, applications and services available for its handsets in an effort to eke out some growth in an otherwise declining cellular market.

"This year we've grown 20-25 percent in volume sales and met our 200-million unit shipment goal, but next year almost everyone forecasts negative growth of even more than five percent," said Young Cho Chi, senior VP of strategic planning for Samsung's telecom business.

"We haven't finalized our numbers [for 2009], but we think we will still grow despite the forecasts," he added speaking at an annual Samsung tech forum here.

In 2009, Samsung will double the number of models of smart phones it ships and extend touchscreen interfaces from high-end handsets down to mainstream feature phones. It is also reducing the number of its underlying hardware platforms while it expands the set of software running on them.

"Most of our products are still based on our proprietary OS, but next year we have a plan to double our open OS models with a good mix between Microsoft Windows Mobile, Symbian and Linux," he said.

Chi reiterated Samsung will ship in 2009 its first phone using the Google Android software, but he did not say specifically when it ships.

The OS strategy is being driven primarily by handset deals with carriers who aim to address specific markets with different software stacks. "For the foreseeable future, we will offer all the possible open OS platforms on our models," Chi said.

Samsung is also following the lead of Nokia which is trying to aggregate a wide variety of applications and services around its handsets to set them apart in the market. "Content and services are not generating much revenue for Nokia, but three-to-five years from now it could be creating $4-5 billion," Chi said.

New mobile focus
In June, Samsung reorganized its telecom division, creating a new mobile solutions center to aggregate mobile content. "Software is becoming a bigger and more important part of our device strategy," he said, noting the company expects to sign mobile content deals with Hollywood studios and Internet giants in 2009.

The reorganization also created a stronger focus on devices for mobile WiMAX networks in tandem with plans for future Long Term Evolution (LTE)-based handsets.

"Our strategy is to support both technologies, and mobile WiMAX is about four or five years ahead of LTE," though LTE will probably become more widespread as the follow on to today's 3G cellular nets, he said.

Hardware capabilities will still be important differentiators. For example, Chi noted Samsung will soon ship handsets with miniature projectors that can be used to display a Powerpoint presentation in a business meeting or play a movie on a hotel room wall.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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