Samsung bada: do we need a new smartphone OS? [Video]

Dec 8, 2009
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Samsung bada: do we need a new smartphone OS? [Video]

As promised, Samsung have unveiled their new smartphone platform, bada, and SlashGear were at the London event this morning.  It's important to note that bada seems at a relatively early stage; the first handset running the platform won't go on sale until sometime in the first half of 2010, and Samsung didn't have any prototype phones for us to look at.  They did, however, outline some of their thinking behind bada, and show a demo video of the conceptual UI which you can see after the cut.

Video demo after the cut

bada is intended, says Samsung, to bridge the gap between current feature-phones and smartphones, with a range of devices spanning multiple price points and specifications that would all be able to access the same application store.  Certain key features would be consistent across all devices - 3G and WiFi connectivity, GPS and a motion sensor, WQVGA or WVGA displays and multitouch-support, and the first bada device will debut the TouchWiz 3.0 UI - giving developers a potentially huge market audience for their applications.  The bada application store will launch with fifty countries supported initially, but Samsung intend to spread it worldwide; users will not have to register in order to use the store, and Samsung hope to add both credit card and mobile billing options for payment.

Samsung will have an open SDK available and developers will be able to use various methods to get their applications up and running.  bada supports C++ together with web runtime widgets and Flash, and Samsung will be running various developer days where coders can work alongside the company's own software engineers.  There's already a great deal of developer support; Samsung brought Twitter, Capcom, EA Mobile, Gameloft and Blockbuster on stage with them, who are all planning bada applications, but Facebook, Konami and many others were named on the company's presentation slides.

As further incentive, Samsung are going along a similar route to Google and others and launching the bada Developer Challenge, which has a $2.7m prize fund to be shared among authors of new applications for the platform.  Obviously gaming will figure strongly in the first wave of releases - Samsung showed Resident Evil running in their concept, as an example of the devices' potential, and Gameloft's CEO went so far as to describe bada phones as "a full gaming platform" - but Blockbuster suggested the smartphone would become your "uber-remote" and allow for Video-on-Demand (VoD) to be downloaded to an HDTV and then the viewing picked up on your bada phone.  EA Mobile's vice president briefly outlined the potential for bada games to take advantage of the handset's camera, mapping and social networking capabilities, thanks to Samsung's APIs.

So far so good, but what's less clear is Samsung's strategy in bringing bada to market.  We'd argue their point that smartphones have a price barrier keeping general feature-phone buyers away is untrue; there are several entry-level smartphone devices from various manufacturers, especially when you take into account carrier subscription.  When asked why the company chose to launch a new OS rather than take advantage of something like Android or Symbian, the EVP of Samsung's media solution center, Hosoo Lee, suggested that bada is easier to use, cheaper and has the potential to scale globally.  Since Google are giving away Android, and it - and other platforms - have been adopted in devices pretty much across the globe, we'd argue that's not quite true.

Samsung_bada_smartphone_platform_0

It was also difficult to get a straight answer on what exactly bada consists of, the presumption being that it's Samsung's proprietary OS with new, open APIs and a more accessible SDK.  There's a sense that Samsung have pushed forward with bada to a large part to maintain control of their platform, while simultaneously being able to sell it as "open".  Nor was there a definitive answer to whether the bada runtime could be downloaded and installed to existing Samsung devices, thus broadening its footprint and giving owners access to the new applications.  The only real indication of bada's technical capacity was a briefly shown slide - which you can see in the gallery below - including such things as OpenGL ES support, face recognition and direct graphics buffer access, but Samsung seemed reluctant to dwell on any hardware details beyond repeating that the first bada device would be one of many on the market by the end of 2010.

We're also very aware that, while the regular SlashGear readers and geeks among us might question the need for a new smartphone platform, the bulk of Samsung's sales are likely to be to non-tech-aware users.  In that sense, sheer scale of numbers will probably see bada grab market share, even if consumers are buying the devices for their aesthetics, blunt camera megapixels or merely brand-recognition.  bada's application portfolio, therefore, may be a second-sell after the initial contract is signed, with Samsung having to educate new users as to why their device is now smarter than the feature phone they might have had before.  It's hard to pass judgement either way until we see a production device (or even just a prototype); despite Samsung's broad launch window, we wouldn't be surprised to see something at Mobile World Congress in February next year.

Samsung bada UI concept video:

Press Release:

Samsung unveils new smartphone platform “bada” to the world

Samsung bada offers a powerful opportunity for developers, mobile operators, and consumers with a wider range of smartphone experiences

December 8th, 2009, London, United Kingdom – Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., a leading mobile phone provider, today unveils its new smartphone platform, Samsung bada. At this unveiling, Samsung showcases the bada SDK (Software Development Kit) for partners and presents the unique benefits and unprecedented opportunities that the bada platform will bring to developers, mobile operators and consumers.

Samsung bada is a driving force in accomplishing Samsung’s vision of a ‘smartphone for everyone.’ To achieve this vision, Samsung bada offers a feature-rich platform for enhanced mobile experiences for consumers, and a complete mobile ecosystem through a developer support program that both the application store and consumers will benefit from. Based on Samsung’s accumulated expertise in developing advanced mobile phones, the company will allow its users to enjoy ultimate mobile experience through superb features.

Dr Hosoo Lee, Executive Vice President and Head of the Media Solution Center at Samsung Electronics said, “In providing Samsung bada, I believe that Samsung will become a true leader in the mobile industry; offering a wider range of smartphone choices for consumers.” He added, “At the same time, Samsung bada presents a powerful opportunity for developers to get their applications onto an unprecedented number of Samsung devices across the world“

Samsung bada, meaning Ocean in Korean, possesses the following key characteristics:

User-interactive

Based on Samsung’s signature TouchWiz User Interface, Samsung bada platform provides an easy, simple, and intuitive UI without compromising efficiency. To enhance creativity and user interactivity, Samsung bada provides flash control, web control, motion sensing, fine-tuned vibration control, and face detection. Also, it supports sensor-based, context-aware applications. By using various sensors such as accelerometers, tilt, weather, proximity, and activity sensors, application developers can easily implement context-aware interactive applications.

Service-oriented

Samsung bada differentiates its position by supporting various service-centric features such as social networking, device synchronization, content management, location-based services, and commerce services - all supported by back-end bada servers. These ground-breaking developer-friendly features support developers to implement various services without additional effort.

Open and configurable

Samsung bada enables developers to take full advantage of mobile device capabilities to create compelling applications with ease. Applications can use device functions to make phone calls, send messages, or access the contact list. Also, various service applications can share information such as personal profiles, social relations, schedules, or contents with a simple user confirmation in order to provide services with greater personal relevance and cooperative service extension. The flexibility of the bada platform makes it applicable to a wider range of devices than any other mobile operating system.

Attendees at today’s launch event will also be introduced to the new Samsung bada Developer Challenge. The Challenge is the first chance for developers to win a share of a US$2,700,000 prize fund, simply by using the features of the new bada platform to build a wide variety of applications for bada devices. The competition is one of the largest ever for developers of mobile software and is testament to Samsung’s commitment to the new bada platform.

Samsung is also set to announce a series of Developer Days to take place across the world during 2010. Open to all developers, the initial events will be held in Seoul, London and San Francisco, with more events following as the year progresses.

The event will also feature insights from current bada development partners including micro blogging service Twitter, movies and games rental outlet Blockbuster, Video and iconic games developers CAPCOM, EA Mobile, and Gameloft . Each partner outlined their vision for the future of mobile apps and how they believe that bada will play a key role in the advance of app services to a wider audience in years to come.

“Our heritage is games machines and arcade machines but we’re eagerly branching out to make the most of mobile,” said General Manager of Online Business Division, Yasuhiro Sumida from CAPCOM. “We recognise our customers aren’t all about games in their homes but want them when they’re out and about, in the palm of their hand. To help us make this move into mobile we want to make sure we are working with the right partner. bada is accessible, open to all and very easy to use.”

“Congratulations to Samsung on the launch of bada. It is great to see one of the world’s leading handset manufacturers embrace software and services on mobile devices so wholeheartedly and wish them all the best,” said Luca Pagano, Vice President, EMEA Publishing, EA Mobile. “The marriage of great games on the right devices is something we take very seriously at EA Mobile and we are excited to light up the upcoming handsets with our high quality games in 2010.”

"We are pleased to once again collaborate with Samsung and launch our games on the bada mobile platform," said Michel Guillemot, chairman and CEO, Gameloft. “With nearly 100 million Gameloft games downloaded by Samsung users worldwide, it is quite clear that our games on these devices have made significant impact with consumers over the years. Utilizing the new generation device's technological capabilities we plan to enrich the consumer gaming experience. Samsung bada offers a new and exciting digital distribution channel for Gameloft titles, as well as an additional outlet for users searching for high quality entertainment."

For further information please visit the bada website (http://developer.bada.com)


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