Samsung’s Tizen: Is Ditching Android an Option?

From a BGR article about the Samsung Galaxy S4, Zach Epstein writes (emphasis mine):

My sincere hope is that Samsung takes advantage of its success and focuses its resources on refining the hardware, software and service experiences it presents to users. I want a more cohesive experience across Samsung apps. I want better services that lock users into the Samsung ecosystem for years to come. These are the things Samsung might consider working on as it develops the Galaxy S5 and other upcoming phones.

Samsung is a hardware company fighting its most important battle in an industry dominated by multiple software giants.

The kinds of integrated services Zach is hoping to see in a Samsung smartphone take incredible amounts of resources to put together: imagine the negotiations and business deals that happened in order for just the iTunes Store to exist — the same iTunes Store that recently had its tenth birthday. That’s forgetting the Movies, TV and App Stores and iCloud. If Samsung wants to play with the big boys, it needs to make one hell of a commitment.

Samsung is facing a tough decision: should the company continue to use Android in its smartphones, relying on Google to update and maintain the software and add these integrated experiences and services, take a more self-reliant approach, modifying Android so heavily that it becomes essentially a Samsung skin on an Android foundation, or — possibly outrageously (and in the style of Apple) — ditch Android altogether and create an entire phone OS from scratch? As shocking as this last option may sound, The Verge reports that a “High-end Samsung Tizen smartphone is coming in August or September of this year:

[A]ccording to [Samsung executive vice president of mobile] Lee [Young-hee] the upcoming phone will be “the best product equipped with the best specifications.”

This could certainly be pure marketing spiel. But it could also be a mysteriously vague announcement of the smartphone industry move of the year.

Let’s backtrack for a moment. In Q4 2012, Samsung recorded $4 billion in profit from its cellphone and telecom business. In the same quarter, Google recorded “just” $2.9 billion profit from all its businesses combined. Samsung is making significantly more money from Android than Google is. The question arises, does this huge reliance on Android and massive profit disparity cause tension between the two companies? And, if so, who has more to lose?

If Samsung takes the smartphone industry seriously — which I believe they do — making a bold move like ditching Android could potentially reap huge rewards for the company. If done right. But it’s a colossal undertaking and one very big risk: what if customers are more loyal to Android than they are to the Galaxy brand, rejecting any high-end device lacking the Android apps and Google services they’ve grown to love? How will Samsung launch an app store in 2013, when there are already established market leaders and competitors?

Back in January I pondered if Samsung leaving Android might just be the “story of 2013”. I still think it’s a pretty long shot, but I’m watching this space.

Further Evidence Samsung Doesn’t “Get It”

From the YouTube channel where this embarrassing video was posted (officialfilmsofindia):

The event was the launch of Samsung's new mobile device the ‘S4’.

They still haven’t learned.

What are the chances we’ll see a similar occurrence at this year’s WWDC? I’m not betting on it.

HTC Income Falls 91% Year on Year

Smart point by MG Siegler. I’ve been wary of Android as a business for a while. It certainly seems the only company making money from Android is Samsung.

Not Google, not HTC, not anyone else.

And Samsung, the biggest Android handset maker, is flirting with leaving the platform. This could be the story of 2013.

Samsung Galaxy Camera

Although I was optimistic back in November, it appears the Samsung Galaxy Camera is a disappointment due to poor image quality and high price. Point and shoot cameras costing less than half the Galaxy Camera match it in quality, according to The Verge’s Aaron Souppouris.

I had too much faith in Samsung’s product design team. Samsung took a smartphone and glued big camera to it. Perhaps the Galaxy Camera is a sound concept: the idea of taking quality pictures then being able to edit, refine and share them from the device itself appeals to me. The design process if this were the goal, though, would be to start with a great camera and work backwards towards the software. Samsung started in the wrong place, which may explain why they created such a poor product.

I feel it’s now too late for this type of “smart-camera”. The smartphone has won. The quality of iPhone cameras has increased far faster than point-and-shoot cameras have over similar periods of time. The apps available for the iPhone are almost limitless. I see a future where cameras are either built into our smartphones/mobile communicators or are dedicated, extremely high quality devices akin to DSLRs.

The Worrying Future of Android

As ever, some great analysis of data by Horace:

Samsung’s success is dependent on having ridden on the back of Android. [...] Meanwhile, indications are that “mobile” is causing a contraction in Google’s margins.

I think the story here isn't that Samsung is making more money from Android than Google is, but instead that as Google enters the mobile space further, their margins decrease. This seems counterintuitive and can't be a good sign for the company.

We know that Google makes significantly more money from iOS users than from Android users. That fact, coupled with this new revelation, seems to indicate an unpredictable and worrying future for the platform.

As Horace concludes:

If nothing else, Android has created a very interesting industry.

Very interesting indeed.

Samsung / Apple UK judgment

Apple legally has to display a notice on its website informing every visitor that in a recent UK trial between Samsung and Apple, it was found Samsung did not copy the iPad.

The way in which Apple has worded the message is perfect; so much so that I'm not going to spoil it by quoting any here.

Whoever wrote this did a fine job: what could have been a mildly humiliating situation was turned into a great tongue-in-cheek insult to one of Apple's biggest rivals.