Could Samsung Fork Android?

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Samsung and Apple are the two giants currently at the top of the mobile game. Both are strong both in their home markets and abroad.(Read Mister Mo’s post titled Are we headed for a bi-polar mobile world?)

Samsung manufactures mobile devices with varying operating systems, including: Bada, Java, Android and Windows phone. The most popular among them is Android. Samsung is king in the Android ecosystem by a wide margin.

Android aside, Samsung knocked Nokia off the mobile (and smartphone) throne by amount of devices shipped not too long ago. They are still maintaining the lead both in the amount of devices shipped and amount sold. The recently released Galaxy SIII has achieved 10 million in sales barely 5 months after its release.

Samsung is so strong in the mobile sector that recently in the United states they told carriers that they did not want any alterations to the physical shape of the Galaxy SIII and the carriers heeded to them. Do you know the last company that pulled that kind of trick and got away with it? Apple!

With Samsung this powerful now, the question is: What happens if and when Samsung gets tired of Google? What happens if they decide to own the OS and choose to fork Android like Amazon did with the Kindle Fire?

Forking according to Wikipedia is defined below:

In software engineering, a project fork happens when developers take a copy of source code from one software package and start independent development on it, creating a distinct piece of software. The term often implies not merely a development branch, but a split in the developer community, a form of schism.

Essentially what the above definition states is that Samsung can decide to take the Android source code (which is open), create a distinct OS from it, and open up their own application store controlled by them and exclusive to their devices.

Given that Samsung is the leading hardware manufacture of Android phones today by a huge margin, it should not be difficult to convince developers to back their app store.

Is an Android fork by Samsung a possibility? If yes, how soon can we expect it?

10 comments

  1. I think that idea will be simmering in the minds of the management of Samsung. The game is becoming more about the ecosystem and less about the devices. That is why Amazon is Apple’s competitor for example despite the fact that the former does not make phones.
    Put your devices in the hands of billions out there and make them buy your stuff (apps, books; music; videos; magazine subscriptions, tv shows etc)

  2. Samsung manufactures mobile devices with varying operating systems, including: Bada, Java, Android and Windows phone.

    Java is not an operating system, it is just a development platform supported wildly by many manufacturers of feature phones and even smartphones like Symbian, Bada and the old Windows Mobile operating systems and even on desktop environments.

    The recently released Galaxy SIII has achieved 10 million in sales barely 5 months after its release.

    The Samsung Galaxy SIII is less than three months in the market. It was released in may and we are still in July, so that makes it less than three months old in the market.

    With Samsung this powerful now, the question is: What happens if and when Samsung gets tired of Google? What happens if they decide to own the OS and choose to fork Android like Amazon did with the Kindle Fire?

    No, Samsung will not get tired of Google. Samsung will first have to get tired of success before getting tired of Google or that Android will first fail in making their products very popular before they can take such a decision or finally that Google decides to abandon Android. Their extreme success in the mobile phone business coincided with their adoption of Android and so taking such a decision now would be worse than what Elop did with Nokia. And if Samsung is so Good with software, it would be achieving similar success with Bada. The best Samsung can do is what it has been doing with skinning on its offerings.

    Given that Samsung is the leading hardware manufacture of Android phones today by a huge margin, it should not be difficult to convince developers to back their app store.

    I don’t think there is anything stopping it right now from operating its app store. It actually has one with limited offerings for its products.

    Is an Android fork by Samsung a possibility? If yes, how soon can we expect it?

    Yes it is a possibility but it is not going to happen anytime soon, not if Android keeps selling Samsung’s products the way its been doing and if Android should fail in this respect, I doubt Samsung has the capability to turn things around through forking. Maybe then, Samsung would be very strong through another platform like Windows Phone.

  3. Who would want to change a winning horse?

    Not Samsung, I hope.

    That said, I suppose the reason Samsung has a fallback position with BADA is just in case Abdtoud did not catch fire. That was THEN.

    Samsung is already stretched. Engaging in “forking” now would be pointless. Not likely to happen soon, it ever…

  4. What samsung is doing presently can already be described as a psuedo fork. It develops additional features on top of vanilla android code (such as S-voice and the new universal search thingy) and doesn’t contribute said code back upstream to Android. However, I feel that’s about as far as they are gonna go. It doesn’t seem to me to be in their best interest to formally fork android. They would be doing a whole lot more engineering tasks for no good reason. Also, as time goes on, the differences in code between their version of android and google’s version would make it increasingly more difficult to merge new improvements from the parent OS.
    Amazon had a good reason for forking android. They have their own ecosystem (appstore, multimedia store, cloud storage service, etc.) And the task required to stip out google’s version of all these services baked into android and replace it with theirs would have been too much to do for every new version of android. Samsung on the other hand, doesn’t have any of those services and therefore just needs to add their custom theme and apps to stock android before shipping.
    Samsung just needs to keep doing what its doing, albeit a little faster so more people can upgrade to the latest and greatest Android version faster.

  5. You don’t change a wining team. They better stay on course. If there is any reason for that in the future, then ….

    I was about saying that the s3 is about just two months in e market as well. Thanks Harry.

  6. People love Android more than Samsung, if Samsung does that it will only open the way for a new King to evolve.

  7. The author clearly forgot everything about Samsung being a part of the open handset alliance. it doesn’t matter if Android is open sourced or not. Samsung is still bound the the OHA agreements they signed, which does prevent them to make a fork there isn’t 100% compatible.

    1. Perhaps the author didn’t. If ever Samsung chooses to and are ready to fork Android, how hard would it be for them to pull out of the alliance?

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