Samsung says it will continue to produce Android phones even as it puts its weight behind the competing Tizen OS, but there's one software partner the South Korean mobile maker isn't so bullish on: Microsoft.
"Smartphones and tablets based on Microsoft's Windows operating system aren't selling very well," Samsung mobile chief J.K. Shin said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. "There is a preference in the market for Android. In Europe, we're also seeing lackluster demand for Windows-based products."
Samsung currently produces two handsets based on Windows Phone 8 – the ATIV S and the ATIV Odyssey – but it was slow to introduce them to the US market, only launching the ATIV Odyssey on Verizon after the holiday shopping season had passed.
As for Windows RT, Samsung has all but given up. In January, the South Korean firm announced that it had canceled its plans to launch its WinRT-based ATIV Tab in the US, and reports began surfacing in March that it was pulling the device from store shelves in Germany and some other European markets, as well.
None of this is good news for Microsoft. CEO Steve Ballmer has said Redmond is "all in" with its new mobile strategy, but Windows Phone 8 hasn't made much of a splash in the smartphone market so far, and sales of Surface RT devices have been disappointing.
Where Android is concerned, however, Shin said it's full steam ahead, and that Samsung's relationship with Google hadn't changed since becoming the dominant maker of Android phones.
"We like Android and we plan to continue our good relations with Google," he said. "I don't think it's correct to say that there's friction."
When asked why Samsung chose to launch its new flagship Android handset, the Galaxy S 4, in the US, rather than in Europe as with previous models, Shin noted the growing importance of the US market to the company.
"I don't dwell on market share numbers, but I'm not satisfied with our market share in the US," Shin said, adding that Samsung's main focus in the US is selling high-end Galaxy smartphones.
The dominant player in the US is, of course, Apple. And while the protracted patent world war between Apple and Samsung shows no signs of abating, Shin said he believes innovation will be key to winning greater share of US consumers.
"In the process of developing and making the Galaxy S 4, we have filed around 120 patents related to user interface and software," Shin said. "We've also hired a number of software engineers from India, Russia, China and Europe to develop unique features internally."
Some of those engineers will surely be working on Tizen, the open source OS that Samsung is positioning as an alternative to Android. In a separate interview on Thursday, Samsung executive VP Lee Young Hee told Bloomberg that the company's first Tizen product will arrive in August or September, and that it will be a high-end smartphone.
Shin told the Journal that Samsung's support for Tizen doesn't indicate a desire to move away from Android. "Our strategy has always been to work with multiple operating [system] software companies. There are different needs from our customers and the market for third-party OS," he said.
That strategy looks to be paying off. Shin said Samsung has sold 50 million Galaxy S III handsets since the model launched last year, and that the company expects its total shipments to exceed 400 million units this year.
Samsung has been so pleased with its mobile division's performance, in fact, that it has given Shin a promotion. On Friday, the company announced that Shin and Yoon Boo-keun, president of Samsung's consumer electronics division, have both been appointed chief executives, joining current CEO Kwon Oh-hyun.
It doesn't get much plainer than Samsung's statement on the matter:
Under President Yoon, Samsung's TV business maintained and solidified its global leadership position after becoming global No. 1 in 2006. Under President Shin, Samsung's mobile business posted significant growth and attained global No. 1 position in smartphones in 2011 and in overall mobile phones in 2012.
It is believed that the three CEOs will continue to act mostly independently, with each retaining full control of his respective division. ®