May 20, 2011

Samsung 2012 "Cloud Phone" to Tap Chromium or WebOS

At a Samsung Mobile Town Hall held in Sunnyvale yesterday evening, one of the company's executive vice presidents, Ho Soo Lee, EVP of the media solution center for Samsung, held court with developers and aspiring partners or future employees to highlight Samsung's position as the fastest-growing smartphone vendor, which has helped play a role in the company's growth to more than $130 billion in revenue for 2010, up 20 percent from the previous year, along with $15 billion in profit. To keep the company's position accelerating, Samsung is continuing its multiple mobile OS strategy, with Android and Bada being its one-two punch in 2011 with Windows Phone 7 also supported. But come 2012, the company has its sights set on a phone that is completely cloud-centric, much like Google's Chrome OS. To get there, Samsung is looking to tap Chromium, and has even considered approaching HP to see if they are willing to license WebOS.

Samsung, along with Apple and HTC, is one of the few handset manufacturers showing considerable market share growth in this competitive landscape. They achieved this with rapid release of handsets for a wide range of countries globally, support for multiple carriers in each, and platform leadership on both quality and quantity. The company's Galaxy S II model and the Galaxy Tab series (7 inch, 8.9 inch and 10.1 inch) are the leading options on the Android platform, going head to head with Apple's iOS. While the company has come under some criticism for slow release of Android milestone upgrades, and its proprietary approach to Bada, the company has achieved a 12.2 percent market share in smart phones, putting it in the 4th position worldwide.

As Lee explained to the packed room in Sunnyvale last night, the company's roadmap hopes to bring cutting edge features like WiFi display from the phone to the TV set, WQXGA support for high resolution tablet displays featuring resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels, 3D accessories and smart phones. One new wrinkle is their stated plan to bring a "cloud phone". Lee said that at this time, Chromium, the open source Web browser project from Google Chrome, would be considered, adding "we are thinking about how to get WebOS right now", an interesting wrinkle, considering HP hasn't yet announced plans for licensing the mobile OS, born out the Palm acquisition, to date.

On the question of slowed updates to Android, and why the company isn't offering a "stock Android" model, Samsung said their strategy is to have their own user experience (UX), believing that their proprietary UI (called TouchWiz) "is a benefit to Samsung's customers". They stated that there is a lot of commitment internally to the company to improve on their pace of upgrades, but also that there is a lot of work to test the upgrades against devices and carriers globally, in addition to the physical act of pushing out the upgrade.

The company called the mobile phone "the center of your social life", referring to it as the most important communication medium, with mobile devices getting stronger as cloud capabilities advance. But they also understand that it takes more than feature one-upmanship to gain customer loyalty - something Apple has proven for decades.

"People don't care about the technology." Greg Dudey, Vice President of the Visual Displays UX Lab at Samsung said. "They care about what it can do. The next two years, we see we are going to be combating the technology experience, but after that, the ecosystem experience."

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