Samsung's odd mobile OS priorities

Manufacturer reportedly to focus on Windows Phone 7 next year, despite success with Android

There's an interesting post on GigaOm which informs readers that Samsung, the No. 2 cell phone manufacturer in the world, is "reportedly shifting its focus to Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 in 2011": According to a report in iMobile.cn, 63 percent of smartphones built by Samsung will be WP7 devices, followed by Android at 32 percent and its own Bada OS at 6 percent. This follows on a report last week that Samsung was internally focusing on WP7.

[ Also on ITworld: Samsung reportedly sells 600,000 Galaxy Tabs ]

It also follows on a report from early September that Samsung was focusing on Android: Samsung Electronics has decided to use Google's Android as a key software platform for its smartphones alongside with its own new bada software, a company executive said. "We are Prioritizing our Android platform. Android is very open and flexible, and there is a consumer demand for it," YH Lee, head of marketing at Samsung Mobile, told Reuters in an interview on sidelines of the IFA consumer electronics fair. That last part Samsung knows from experience, as the company has sold 5 million of its Android-powered Galaxy S smartphones. And Android is on a trajectory overall to surpass Symbian as the world's most popular mobile OS. So what's behind the move (assuming it's true)? GigaOm speculates that there may be "a little Android fatigue in the ecosystem." Could be, though getting a cut of the action from 5 million smartphone sales is the kind of fatigue I'd be willing to suffer. Granted, it's true that there seem to be an unlimited number of Android phones being churned out by multiple manufacturers, which probably makes it challenging for your product to cut through the clutter. But the Galaxy S did more than just fine. Further, WP7 is not destined for an Android-like ascendancy. As GigaOm notes, Gartner predicts that WP7 will have all of 4 percent of mobile OS market share in 2014, plus Microsoft charges a licensing fee. Why would Samsung place such a huge bet on an OS with that kind of limited upside? If Samsung is determined to own that 4 percent sliver of the OS market, good luck to it. But I'm pretty sure going all in (or mostly in) with WP7 will be a mistake.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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