South Korea to Brew Own Android-competing Smartphone OS

August 23, 2011
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The South Korean government plans to create a new opensource mobile operating system and a Web-based operating system through a government-initiated project allowing Korea-based device manufacturers to collaborate on developing the software, a government official told Yonhap News Agency yesterday. The collaborative project is expected to launch before the end of the year.

The new mobile operating system, presumably a new competitor to Android, is intended to make sure that South Korean device manufacturers can maintain their competitiveness against other device makers around the world.

Long-term Response to Googorola

When Google dropped a nuclear bomb with its recent acquisition of patent goldmine Motorola, the whole world stood still. In the aftermath of that explosive news, several sectors expressed fears and uncertainties about the possible repercussions of the Google-Motorola team-up.

The South Korean government, in particular, worried about its leading manufacturers, Samsung and LG, who might be placed in a tight spot if ever Google decides to extend its powerful arm into the smartphone manufacturing business.

Samsung, the world’s second biggest smartphone maker, has had very close ties with Google through Samsung’s preference for the Android operating system. LG also produces smartphones loaded with the Android operating system. The combined market share of both Samsung and LG is the second largest in the global hardware market.

Fear of a Double-edged Sword

Kim Jae-Hong, deputy minister of South Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy, admitted that Motorola’s hardware patent portfolio of about 17,000 patents could be wielded by Google as a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it can protect both Samsung and LG against further legal attacks from international rivals such as Apple. Yet, Motorola’s patents also give Google significant punch if ever Google goes into smartphone manufacturing, effectively placing itself in front of Samsung and LG as a direct–and a very large–competitor.

Both Samsung and LG may continue their partnerships with Google for some time. “Because Google is an open-source system, it cannot just switch over to a closed-source system overnight,” Kim said but also remains open to the “possibility of Google jumping into the smartphone business in the future.”

Will the world benefit from another new opensource mobile operating system? And, if ever the South Korean initiative does take flight, what improvements over Android would you want the new OS to have?

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