Samsung and LG mount challenge to Android, iOS

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Samsung and LG mount challenge to Android, iOS

In the smartphone ecosystem dominated by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are trying to distance themselves from Google and offer consumers more choices.

At the Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona on Monday, Samsung announced it will phase out its 3-year-old Bada software and switch to a more promising platform called Tizen.

The Korean tech titan and Intel have been spearheading the development of the Linux-based open source platform, like Android. Also participating are major tech producers and mobile carriers such as DoCoMo, SK Telecom, Vodafone, Orange, Panasonic and Huawei.

Bada, developed in 2010 as Samsung prepared to fight against Android and iOS, was topped with 10 Wave brand smartphones sold in Europe - in Russia, mostly - but their performance has been bleak with a market share of 3 percent. The last Bada-based smartphone unleashed in Korea was the Wave 3 in February 2012.

Over 40 percent of Samsung’s mobile devices rely on Android, and Samsung also is a key partner with Microsoft on Windows Phone 8. Samsung admitted to Bada’s vulnerability.

“The Bada OS was not entirely structured for smartphones,” said Hong Won-pyo, head of Samsung’s Media Solutions Center. He added that upcoming smartphones running on Tizen OS will not carry the Wave brand. Samsung plans to release Tizen devices in August at the earliest, according to industry sources.

Separately, Mozilla, the nonprofit foundation behind the popular Firefox Web browser, on Sunday announced it will launch an operating system for mobile devices: Firefox OS. Mozilla unveiled its ambition to become the “third ecosystem,” alongside iOS and Android, which accounted for 87.8 percent of mobile platforms at the end of last year, according to market researcher Strategy Analytics.

LG Electronics, Samsung’s domestic rival, plans to release low-cost Firefox-based smartphones running on Qualcomm chips by summer at the earliest through domestic carrier KT.

“We are participating in the Firefox project, but intend to concentrate on the Android platform for the time being,” said Kwon Bong-seok, managing director of LG Electronics’ mobile communications, in Barcelona.

But he made it clear LG has no plan to join Samsung’s Tizen initiative. A total of 18 wireless carriers, including Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom and Sprint Nextel are supporting development of an open mobile operating system by Mozilla to build out a range of cheaper smartphones.

LG also is also acquiring Hewlett-Packard’s WebOS mobile-software operations and hiring several dozen engineers who worked on the program, part of an effort to improve Internet-capable televisions. The world’s second-largest maker of TVs plans to put the technology into Web-connected sets as early as next year, said Skott Ahn, the company’s president and chief technology officer on Monday.

Hewlett-Packard bought WebOS in 2010 through the $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm. The computer maker shut down Palm in 2011 after abandoning a plan to compete in the market for tablets and smartphones. Meg Whitman, who took over as Hewlett-Packard’s CEO just after that decision, has been working to salvage some value from the Palm deal.

LG, which ships smart TVs using its own software and Google TV, will incorporate WebOS into future products, though not those arriving this year, said Ahn. The company may also use WebOS in home appliances, he said.


By Seo Ji-eun, Bloomberg [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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