Samsung is sabotaging Windows Phone as a way to boost its Tizen smartphone OS, charges analyst

Samsung's support of Windows Phone has been underwhelming, and an analyst claims he knows why: The company is doing its best to sabotage Windows Phone and drain Microsoft resources so that its own Tizen smartphone operating system will succeed when it goes public.

Jeff Johnston of research firm Detwiler Fenton has made that charge, according to Barron's. Johnston notes that Samsung's Ativ Odyssey Windows Phone has essentially failed, gaining only between a 1% and 2% market share at Verizon. He claims there is "no talk of Samsung stepping in to help boost sales...Samsung Windows Phone roadmap is limited to a small number of smartphones, none of which appear to be all that exciting."

After that, he charges that Samsung is going out of its way to get Microsoft to spend as many resources as possible on offering support to Samsung for Windows Phone development, not because Samsung expects to use that support, but to make it more difficult for Microsoft to provide support for more serious phone makers:

Our checks indicate that Samsung may be intentionally gobbling up Microsoft's smartphone resources as a strategic move to impede the adoption of Windows Phone 8. While Samsung insists on receiving extensive engineering support (which they are getting) from MSFT (giving MSFT false hope that it is interested being a strategic Windows Phone 8 partner) there is no evidence that Samsung has any interest in seeing the Windows Phone platform it tries to create a barrier for its Tizen aspirations. It's no secret that Samsung wants to become less reliant on Google's Android OS and its hope is Tizen will enable it to do so. Therefore, having a successful Windows Phone 8 platform only means it will have another mobile platform (backed by deep pockets) to compete with. Samsung has a long way to go before we can take Tizen seriously however one thing seems certain, it is going to keep its foot on MSFT's throat as it pours money into Tizen.

That certainly sounds like the mother of all conspiracy theories. But it's not quite as far-fetched as it first might seem. Samsung's big phone winners have all been Android phones, notably the Samsung Galaxy S III. The Samsung Galaxy 4, about to be announced, will likely be another big winner as well.

Samsung would likely prefer that it not be dependent on Google for its smartphone OS, and would prefer to have its own OS. The open-source Android competitor Tizen could certainly be that. Tizen has already gained support from a variety of sources, including NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Vodafone, Sprint, SK Telecom, Intel, and KT (Korea Telecom). So there's no doubt that Samsung will push Tizen when it's ready for prime time.

But I don't quite buy all of Johnston's charges. Microsoft is a pretty sharp company, and it wouldn't take people there long to figure out that Samsung was taking up too many Microsoft resources without offering anything in return. Microsoft would then simply stop devoting so many resources to Samsung.

As for Samsung not pushing Windows Phone, that seems undoubtably true. The Ativ Odyssey is a middling phone, not as good as the Lumias put out by Nokia, and nowhere near as good as the Samsung Galaxy line. But there's no conspiracy involved. With the Galaxy line, Samsung has got a world-beater. Why pour resources into the struggling Windows Phone OS, when its Galaxy line has been a spectacular success?

And Samsung has shown it will spend whatever resources it takes to push its Galaxy phones. The Wall Street Journal reports that Samsung spent $401 million in adverting its smartphones last year, beating Apple, which spent $333 million for the iPhone. Samsung has blitzed the airwaves with its ads for the Galaxy line; I haven't seen any money spent on pushing a Windows Phone. But that's straight economics: Pushing the Galaxy pays off; pushing Windows Phone won't. There's no conspiracy involved there, either.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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