Opinion: What is the point of Samsung’s Bada?

Samsung's Bada is nearly a year old but seems to be going nowhere

With Samsung committing to an Android future what is the point of keeping its own open source OS alive?, asks Adam Maguire.

Just less than a year ago Samsung announced Bada OS, its own open source operating system that would challenge the growing dominance of Android and iOS. It made a lot of noise about the new software at the time, offering developers cash prizes for unique apps as recently as May, and generally played up its intuitive and ground-breaking nature.

As we draw closer to the OS’s first birthday, however, there is just one Bada-based phone on the market (the quite successful Wave S8500) with no sign of a follow-up at present.

At the recent IFA conference in Berlin the head of marketing at Samsung Mobile also said the manufacturer was “prioritising our Android platform” in response to customer demand. This was in response to a question about the company’s commitment to Windows Phone 7 but clearly shows where the company’s sights are set in general.

As if that was not enough the company’s latest Android device – the Samsung Galaxy S – carries the exact same user interface as the Wave, even hosting a limited version of the Samsung Apps shop alongside Android’s own Market. This is enough to undermine any unique selling point Bada may have had left going for it, making it as obvious as ever that Android is as adaptable, flexible and feature-rich as anything Samsung could hope to do on its own.

So what is the point of Bada and have Samsung already given up on it?

Going by the Bada blog they have not, with a recent post detailing the first phase of their developer competition. However the lack of a second Bada device – or even plans for one this side of Christmas – suggest that they are not exactly devoted to pushing the software out there.

Then there is the question of where they could push it even if they wanted to. The above quote on prioritising Android shows where they see consumer demand going while the same executive suggested some “professional, specialised demand” for a Windows Phone 7 device. That leaves very little of the market for poor old Bada.

Perhaps, then, Samsung sees its future in their lower-end or cheaper devices, where a proprietry OS might have been used in the past. As other manufacturers have already shown, however, Android ports just as well to mid and lower-featured phones as it does to more powerful devices. Think the HTC Wildfire and Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X10 mini as an example. In other words there is no real reason for a “third way” when targeting that end of the market.

Clearly Samsung, like any manufacturer, does not want to tie itself too tightly to one OS for fear or it dragging them down should market demand shift in the future. However with so many other alternatives already out there – like Windows Phone 7 and Nokia/Intel’s MeeGo – it is unclear how an OS the company itself is not too bothered about would be much use to them should that happen.

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