Many in the industry believed Samsung would struggle to attract much interest in phones based on its in-house ‘bada’ mobile operating system when the firm took the wraps off the proprietary platform a year ago. Industry consensus then (and still now) was that the mobile device sector needs fewer operating systems – not more; Samsung has already established itself as a heavyweight Android player and is set to be a major backer of Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 too. Where exactly would bada fit into the mix?
Last week Samsung gave the first indications of how bada is doing – and the doomsayers will be interested to note that it’s not doing that badly at all. The vendor expects to ship 5 million bada phones by year-end. While those sales figures aren’t earth-shattering, they’re not bad considering the first bada phone (the Wave) was only released in June and was the only bada phone available until October (when a further five Wave models were launched). Samsung has conservatively estimated that it will ship 20 million smartphones this year; half of this total is expected to relate to its flagship Android phone, the Galaxy S, but the 5 million bada shipments means that smartphones on its own platform will account for a respectable quarter of sales. Add in the fact that Samsung is reporting some solid download numbers from the bada apps store, and it’s safe to say that – against the odds – bada has had a successful freshman year.
Samsung’s smartphone platform strategy has never been straightforward, with the company having supported multiple OS in various products over the years, never seeming to favour one platform over another. In addition to its Android, bada and WP7 devices, it has also offered products powered by Windows Mobile, Palm OS, LiMo Platform and Linux, and it was only earlier this year that it officially announced it was ending support for Symbian. But the firm’s ongoing success – it expects to double smartphone shipments to 40 million next year – suggests that the multi-platform approach has not been a bad bet.
Its current strategy appears to be based on using Android (and probably also WP7) for its flagship phones and bada for the mid-tier. This creates a huge opportunity for Samsung to push bada into the ‘featurephone’ space where a decent handset range at sensible price points could see the platform flourish – especially in major markets such as China. Moreover, having control over its own in-house smartphone platform and developer community could prove extremely valuable in differentiating its products from its mainly Android-based competition (Nokia is hoping to do much the same with Symbian).
It’s too early to declare bada a roaring success, but the platform could be one to watch in 2011.
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