Samsung’s Bada to push smartphone features to cheap phones

by Caroline Gabriel, Rethink Wireless

It is clear that 2010’s key handset trend will be the extension of smartphone hallmarks – open OS, downloadable apps, touchscreens and customizable complex interfaces – to mass market devices. This is mainly expected to happen with the shrinking down of classic smartphones running Android, Symbian or other operating systems, but Samsung is seeking the upper hand with a multi-OS approach, introducing a software layer and store it calls Bada, which could be targeted at sub-$100 phones with smartphone-like behaviour.

Samsung says Bada will open up its various operating systems, including the proprietary one that runs on its midrange (and some high end) models, to developers and will eventually enable them to create applications once, and run and sell them on multiple platforms, including Android, LiMo and its own SHP (still its major platform). Samsung also supports Symbian and Windows Mobile but it is not clear whether these will be included in the system.

The Korean firm, whose growing market share is driven mainly from the low end, has a clear interest in controlling how open apps get to that level of the market. It hopes to release the first phones running Bada – which means ‘ocean’ in Korean – in the first half of 2010 and the platform will be the basis of an extensive roll-out across all territories.

Bada provides a software layer that runs on top of SHP, but goes further than a widget-based user interface like Samsung TouchWiz – by opening the whole software platform to third party developers rather than just making certain selected apps available via a widget engine.

To perform the difficult feat of attracting programmer support – split between an increasingly large number of platforms – Samsung is running developer days in Seoul, London and San Francisco in December and January, but its real appeal to third parties may lie in the future ability to span multiple OSs in the same way that Java or Flash do. Samsung will also have to convince carriers that they want to support yet another user experience, and some of its opportunities may potentially lie in allowing for carrier customization, as HTC Sense will do.

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