At the end of last year Samsung suddenly announced ‘Bada’, their own smartphone platform. Although there are claims that its just vaporware, sorry to say its not making much hype like most vaporware should do. After two months we are still waiting for the real thing. Now we all know what a smartphone O/S is, but what’s a smartphone platform?
In the official Bada site, it actually says that the kernel layer can be either Linux or real-time OS (feature phone OS) depending on the configuration. This shows that there will be a shared experience between feature phones and smartphones. So it may not be inventing a new experience with a new O/S. Confusing nonetheless, I’d say.
Why all the mystique and vagueness? In my view the vagueness and uncertainty reflect Samsung’s agony with smartphones. Let me summarize the situation Samsung is in right now.
- Samsung’s handset ASP had always been 10~30% higher than the industry average but since 2008 they’ve been 10% lower.
- Samsung’s operating margin’s are jumping between the 5% and 10% line and it used to be the 10% and 20% line before.
- As the No.2 manufacturer of handsets worldwide with 20% market share, Samsung only grasps 3% of the smartphone market.
So it all began with the smartphone hype in recent years. Smartphones have been haunting Samsung over the last 2~3 years and even further back when they were experimenting with Palm, Linux and Blackberry (yes, even Blackberry).
Samsung’s Bada is a reactive response rather than a proactive or creative move. So it will end up constantly changing as time goes by.
I’d say the current facts all point to a direction which is clear though. Samsung’s Bada will be forced to become an upgrade to its legacy feature phones. Whether Samsung intends Bada to become such an upgraded feature phone experience or not, I’m not sure but that’s the only niche that is available in this market right now.
As you can see in the chart below there still is a gap between the so-called smartphones and feature phones and with the beginning of the Jet, Samsung has been attempting to bridge that gap.
Whether the Bada will be good enough to enter the ranks of smartphones or it will just blur the lines between smartphones and feature phones we’ll have to see the actual product.
Many other feature phone centric vendors will realize that they don’t have much options for the future and this type of feature phone upgrading will be seen again. I think we’ll have to come up with a new definition called the ‘Smart Feature Phone’ or the ‘Simple-minded Smartphone’ soon this year.
- Tom Kang