Tuesday, 25 October 2011

South Korean mobile operating system in development, do we need another one?

Google’s acquisition of Motorola for more than $12 billion has numerous implications, most especially amongst Android handset and tablet makers, who despite Google’s many reassurances of continued equal treatment under the Open Handset Alliance, will no longer want to rely as heavily on the ‘open-source’ Android operating system. While this works well for Microsoft, in that now many manufacturers are looking towards Windows Phone 7 as an alternative, tablet and handset manufacturers are beginning to think about developing independent solutions.

Two of the biggest Android device manufacturers in the world, LG and Samsung, are also two of the largest companies to hail from South Korea. To help matters, the South Korean government has maternally stepped in to protect the two of the most important pillars of its economy, and announced it would e developing a mobile operating system of its own, one that South Korean manufacturers can use in their future devices without the worry of paying out royalties, or being treated to anti-competitive practices.

Specifically, Kim Jae-hong, the deputy minister at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy of South Korea, believes that reliance on the U.S.-made operating system is not wise, and South Korea would now “foster a habitat” for a new open-source system. Speaking for the need for a new OS, Kim Jae-hong said:
“Because Google is an open-source system, it cannot just switch over to a closed-source system overnight. Still, we cannot completely rule out the possibility of Google jumping into the smartphone business in the future.”
Plans for such Korea-developed OS have been around for a while, but not everyone was interested. Samsung, who already has its own smartphone operating system, Bada (which, albeit, is not as popular as Android), was sceptical of the need. It has apparently changed its tune after Google’s announcement of its deal with Motorola Mobility.

Now, after considering Samsung’s announcement about making Bada an open-source operating system by next year, it seems possible Bada might just be used as the South Korean operating system, with the entire platform including its ecosystem of apps being developed further in Korea, together with LG and a consortium of other companies, along with individual developers. The speculation of course extends to the other possibility, of a joint-effort being spent to develop a brand new OS, and Bada being ultimately discontinued at some point. 

The South Korean operating system, which has yet to be named, can be thought of as a “government-sponsored mobile OS.” It will be a completely open-source project, open to the general community, just like Android. Work will apparently start by the end of the year. . Announcing the government’s plans at a press conference in August, Kim Jae-hong said:
“We will forge ahead in developing a new kind of operating system, which is being seen as a next-generation product, in order to build the kind of advantage we do not enjoy in the market for smartphones and tablet PCs, which is dominated by Google and Apple.”
The government also announced plans of developing another, web-or-cloud-based operating system in parallel with the mobile OS. 

With all this going on, we had to ask ourselves – do we as consumers really need another mobile operating system? How much variety is too much variety? Will fragmentation or even too many choices spoil things for developers, and limit the fecundity and vibrancy of each individual platform’s ecosystem? With the speed at which economies and technologies are evolving, the answers to these questions are still a little too uncertain to be sure of. 

For now however, we feel variety, however short-lived, will still bring enough competition to the table for us all to benefit as consumers. We look forward to some interesting innovations in the field, and wish South Korea the best of luck in developing a worthy rival to iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, Symbian and BlackBerry.


Post a Comment