Samsung’s Investments Hint at Platform Ambitions
When Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S4 last month, the company made barely a mention of Google’s Android, the operating system on which it has built its dominance of the smartphone market. A conspicuous, even flagrant, omission, since Samsung is by far Google’s largest Android hardware partner. And taken together with yesterday’s announcement of a new mobile browser partnership with Mozilla — and the company’s continuing work on Tizen, the Linux-based mobile platform it’s developing with Intel — it’s further evidence that Samsung is rejiggering its partnership with Google.
But to what end?
The most likely reason is simply to lessen the company’s heavy reliance on Android, as I noted here yesterday. But there’s another, as well, one that speaks to Samsung’s ambitions in the mobile space. The company is positioning itself for a full-on platform play.
“We see Samsung seeking to transition to more of a vertically integrated platform play of hardware, software, and services to compete more effectively against Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others,” said Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu. “The company has been co-developing Tizen with Intel, while also ramping software efforts, including investments in Silicon Valley.”
And those investments are substantial. There’s a startup accelerator, a Silicon Valley R&D center, a sales and R&D campus, and a strategy and innovation center on Menlo Park’s Sand Hill Road. They’re all new, or newly announced. And it’s not unreasonable to conclude that they’ve been established at least in partial support of a platform effort.
Question is, has Samsung’s success given it enough heft to pull off a new platform in a market that Apple and Google so thoroughly dominate? And is it even possible to do so when it’s so thoroughly tethered to Android’s app ecosystem?
Says Wu, “We believe replicating Google and Apple’s model as a platform play will prove very difficult where arguably only Amazon is seeing success.”
Amazon, of course, has forked Android. Samsung hasn’t. Yet.