Samsung has changed its mind and may join an Korean consortium producing an open alternative to Android. The strategy shift has been prompted by Google's proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility – and reflects the vertical integration structure whereby Google both licenses Android and competes with its licensees in handsets. This is according to Korea's Deputy Minister of the Knowledge Economy, Kim Jae-hong, cited here.
Of course, we only have the deputy minister's word for it. And the deputy minister may be talking through his gat.
Two of Korea's largest chaebols, Samsung and LG, are Android licensees. Kim said that Samsung had been sceptical about joining an open consortium but that Google's Motorola bid had changed the picture. He also said he expects co-operative relationships between Google and the chaebols to continue for short to medium term.
Historically Samsung has become a licensee of every open initiative going: Symbian, Windows, Java ME, SavaJe and LiMO. More recently Bloomberg reported it was leading the (presumably short) queue of potential licensees of HP's WebOS, too.
But it also has its own platform, Bada, which is mostly (but not exclusively) pitched at cheaper touchscreen devices. Samsung itself describes Bada as a platform that is OS-agnostic.
Remembering what happened the last time government played pick-a-winner in operating systems, we wouldn't normally put too much credence on the announcement. But Samsung's reported change of heart is noteworthy. It illustrates how hard Google will find it to keep Android "independent" while it owns one of the biggest Android customers.
Samsung has already felt the sharp end of the mobile industry's patent wars. Apple won an injunction preventing it from selling its Android Tablet in most of Europe. ®