Samsung Bada 2.0 Developer Day

At the start of November, Samsung held a Bada Developer Day to herald the launch of Bada 2.0. This followed on from the 2010 Samsung Bada developer day they held (I took some pictures during the 2010 event).

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Bada was launched in December 2009. It’s part of Samsung’s plan to dominate the mobile industry and to beat Apple’s iOS and iPhone juggernaut. It’s also clever sleight of hand: Samsung’s target is to gain a significant percentage of the smartphone market in 2010, so by releasing Bada as a ‘smartphone’ OS on featurephone devices, they can at a stroke redefine a market segment and meet their internal targets. Or, as Samsung put it:

The vision of bada is “Smartphone for Everyone”. bada’s main goal is not to compete with other existing smartphone platforms. Instead, bada will turn Samsung’s conventional customers into smartphone users by providing cost-effective smartphones.

As The Register said in early 2010 when the first Samsung Wave device was announced:

If Bada had come from anyone except Samsung then it probably wouldn’t be worth pursuing, but Samsung shifts an awful lot of handsets and if the company decides to back Bada properly then it’s going to be an important platform.

Now in late 2011 we can see the steady advances that Samsung has made with their multi-year Bada platform investment, and it does indeed appear that the company is backing Bada properly. Some of the highlights (see the timeline embedded below for the full details): in June 2010 the Wave handset went on sale in the UK; in July Samsung published a developer book; in August the 1.0 Bada SDK was released; in October 2010 the Wave II handset was announced; in August 2011 Bada 2.0 was announced; and later that month the Wave 3 handset was announced along with the Wave Y and Wave M lower-spec devices.

It’s a fairly consistent attempt to carve out a niche for Samsung with their own phone operating system. At first glance at least, Samsung are focussing on many of the things that are critical to platform success: a steady flow of devices, an SDK, comprehensive documentation, a potentially compelling proposition for the consumer, monetisation routes for developers, continued outreach, and an evolving platform.

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Compared to last year’s event it seemed like there were far fewer attendees this year: maybe less than half (150 or so as opposed to 400 or so). The day was also half as long, with maybe a quarter as much technical content.

Last year’s London developer day agenda began with the usual marketing and positioning presentations, and then moved on to more than four hours of technical content. At times it was really heavy going, but there’s no doubt that leaving the event most people will have had a solid understanding of what Bada was about.

This year’s event had much shorter marketing presentations, followed by an overview of the changes in Bada 2.0, a rather long coffee break for networking (which only works if there’s enough people to network with), some partner presentations, and a final closing talk by David Rowan. David’s the editor of Wired UK, and his talk on the future of technology was amusing, entertaining and insightful. It was interesting of Samsung to add this to the agenda, and is a subtle bit of positioning of Bada.

I did leave this year’s event feeling like there was more I needed to know about Bada 2.0, and many unanswered questions. What about upgrades of older devices to the latest Bada release? Is it possible to publish apps that support Bada 1 and Bada 2? What is the benefit of writing apps for Bada rather than Samsung’s other mobile platforms, Windows Phone 7 and Android?

The last question is particularly important given Samsung’s own analysis, from their marketing presentation, that suggests Bada and Windows Phone will have 17% of the market each in 2012, with Android at 66%:

samsung uk market projection

If those numbers are correct, wouldn’t it be better to develop for Android’s larger market share?

The Samsung Hub appears to be in part Samsung’s answer to that question (though it should be noted Samsung Hub is creeping on to Android devices too). By developing for Bada, you get access to some interesting Samsung-specific functionality, for example being able to share phone content with your Samsung TV or PC. Another cool example I heard about during the day was using a Bada phone as a remote control (including remote viewfinder) for a Samsung camera. Samsung are also borrowing heavily from other mobile platforms with remote device location and wipe (iOS and Blackberry), aggregating contacts across multiple social networks (WebOS Synergy), flip to silence the phone (HTC Sense).

samsung hub: smart services

In addition, Samsung are challenging the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon head-on with a range of content provision services: music, films, curated games, books and other media, all under the branding of Samsung Hub.

samsung hub: entertainment

You’ll note in the pie chart that there is absolutely no mention of iOS. There’s a marketing tactic which involves never mentioning the competition by name, but if you take it too far you end up with graphs like this that are blatantly wrong. Horace Dediu at asymco has assiduously been keeping track of smartphone shipments including Bada (for example hereherehere,here), and fortunately he’s done the hard work of putting together an accurate smartphone platform share chart for Q2 2011, which might help us imagine the situation in 2012. According to Dediu, Android is currently closer to 48%, Bada at 4%, with iOS at 19%.

If Samsung want Bada to succeed, they need to be a bit more honest about the market reality, and have suitable explanations for why developing for Bada makes sense. Perhaps the statistics are the best answer, as they show a real revenue opportunity for app developers:

bada in numbers

In summary, Samsung continue to make progress with Bada and to promote it strongly. But whether it is a long-term success or not will depend as much on the devices and the developer experience as on the strength of Samsung’s engagement with the platform.

This is part one of a three part series of blog posts on Samsung Bada. Coming up: a review of the Wave 3, and a review of the SDK and developer experience.

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