Over the past few weeks since Google announced their Motorola Mobility acquisition, Samsung had been busy slowly distancing itself from Google and the Android platform.
Samsung started weaning with the launch of three smartphones that run on the Bada platform. It was followed by the launch of the Samsung tablet powered by Windows 8 at Microsoft’s BUILD Conference. And now Samsung signed a licensing agreement with Microsoft that entitles them to use Microsoft’s patent portfolios, but the deal also grants Microsoft royalties for every Android handset Samsung sells.
“Together with the license agreement signed last year with HTC, today’s agreement with Samsung means that the top two Android handset manufacturers in the United States have now acquired licenses to Microsoft’s patent portfolio,” Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith and top IP lawyer Horacio Gutierrez said in a blog post. “These two companies together accounted for more than half of all Android phones sold in the U.S. over the past year.”
If you look at the deal, it appears Samsung put itself in very compromising situation. Even if they sell tons of Android handsets, a part of what they earned will be given to Microsoft. But this opens up a new opportunity for Samsung to focus on producing handsets that run on the Windows Phone platform as well. Since there’s an increase on “intent to purchase” for Windows Phone devices, this could actually be profitable for Samsung. This deal could possibly hurt the Android market, as manufacturers find benefits in supporting Microsoft Phone, especially if their Android sales must be shared with Microsoft anyway. While Android is still a huge winner with consumers, but Microsoft is working hard to shift end user activity towards its own mobile OS, which will require a substantial ecosystem of diverse and accessible devices, as well as apps.
Furthermore, the LiMo Foundation, a Linux-based mobile operating system for smartphone mobile devices backed by Samsung, and the Linux Foundation which governs the open-source mobile platform Meego, said that they agreed to merge LiMo and Meego to develop a new operating system called Tizen.
Tizen will support multiple device categories such as smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, netbooks, and in-vehicle infotainment devices. The Linux Foundation will oversee the Tizen Project which will be led by a technical steering team composed of Intel and Samsung. Tizen and its software development kit (SDK) are expected to be released during the first quarter of 2012.
Though the Tizen project may sound promising in creating a unified platform for all devices, this could also mean another drawback for developers. It’s very unlikely for Apple, RIM and Motorola to drop their current OS platforms and use Tizen, so developers would have to make different concessions for one app just to make it available to all OS platforms.
This cross-platform conundrum has been around since Apple and Android ramped up competition in an industry that already had RIM, Microsoft and Nokia systems. It’s given rise to a sub-market of cross-platform providers that aid developers in their app creation and distribution to support the rising number of platforms emerging in the market. But in the end, developers will go where the users are.