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Will Apple envy wreck Samsung?

Samsung wants to be like Apple. But to do that, it needs to dump Android -- and that's not a good idea.

February 16, 2013 06:33 AM ET

Computerworld - Samsung is tired of watching Apple run away with most of the money in mobile. Now, the Korean giant is making a big play to become like Apple -- a company that makes not only the hardware, but also the software and the store where you buy stuff.

Samsung also wants to be like Google and make money from mobile advertising.

In order to own the software platform that powers its phones, Samsung needs to drop Android. But can Samsung pull this off without wrecking a good thing?

Samsung's big play in Silicon Valley

Samsung this week announced something called the Open Innovation Center, which is located in two places -- Silicon Valley and New York City.

The purpose of the center, headed by former Google executive David Eun, is to enable Samsung to benefit from software innovation. The organization will act as an incubator, providing salaries and benefits to entrepreneurs while they semi-autonomously create new ideas within the company. It will also act as a venture capitalist, investing in outside startups and organizing software-company acquisitions for Samsung.

Samsung hopes the Open Innovation Center will accelerate the growth of the app ecosystem for its new Android replacement, called Tizen.

It's not complicated. Samsung wants to transition from a hardware company to a company more like Apple -- one that makes money from hardware, software, apps, services and advertising.

Here comes Tizen

Samsung is working with Intel to develop a Linux-based operating system called Tizen. The software is designed to power smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and even in-car devices.

It's a direct competitor with, and alternative to, Google's Android platform.

The first demonstration of Tizen running on actual Samsung hardware is expected to take place at Mobile World Congress this month in Barcelona, where I'm currently located and awaiting the big show.

(Tizen software has previously been seen only on "reference" hardware distributed to developers so they could build apps for it.)

It's not clear whether the Mobile World Congress demonstrations will be open to the public and the press, or if they'll be held behind closed doors for select partners only.

Samsung phones running Tizen are expected to hit the market by the end of the year.

It's not just about Tizen or smartphones

Samsung is by far the leading seller of television sets in the United States. Many of those TVs run Google TV software, which is based on Android and Google's Chrome browser.

Samsung is also the maker of some Chromebooks -- laptops that run a variant of the Chrome browser as a kind of operating system.

Tizen is designed to run on all these platforms.

Eun announced very clearly this week that Samsung's intention is to build a software ecosystem where TVs, laptops, tablets and smartphones all connect with one another seamlessly and easily, as Apple devices are supposed to do.

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