Samsung focusing on smartphone push

BARCELONA Sun Feb 14, 2010 3:43pm EST

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BARCELONA (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics aims to outgrow its bigger rivals in a surging smartphone industry as its own software platform helps it to push smartphone-like features also to phones in emerging markets.

"I believe that the smartphone market will grow more than 20 percent every year for a 3-year timeframe, and the growth rate in emerging markets is much higher than that of advanced countries," JK Shin, the head of Samsung's mobile operations, told Reuters.

Samsung, along with the whole cellphone industry, has started to focus increasingly on services and software, after Apple and Google have entered the higher end of the market -- helping to boost sales of the top-end phones even in recession.

To better battle the new rivals Samsung created in late 2009 its own smartphone software platform, called 'bada'.

"The bada platform has a capability to cover not only the developed markets, but emerging markets as well -- (its) presence and coverage will be bigger," he said in an interview at the start of Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.

He said it was too early to say whether bada will be Samsung's main software platform.

"It is time for Samsung to have a first step -- it is too early to say something that confident."

Samsung's full focus on bada would be a blow to other open operating systems -- Google's Android, Nokia's Symbian and Microsoft's Windows.

FULL COMMITMENT TO OUTGROW RIVALS

Samsung aims to more than triple its 2010 smartphone sales from a year ago with a slew of better phone models, coupled with own online software store and its new bada software platform.

"We will introduce the largest ever smartphone lineup in 2010," JK Shin said.

Samsung plans to roll out around 40 smartphone models this year -- in a stark contrast to market leader Nokia, who halved its launch plans to around 10 for 2010 to better focus resources behind key devices.

Tripling smartphone volumes would make Samsung the fourth-largest smartphone maker with more than 17 million handsets to be sold -- but it would still be well behind No. 3 Apple which sold 25 million iPhones in 2009.

JK Shin said Samsung aims to be the fastest growing player in the smartphone market.

"I will fully commit myself to reaching this goal," JK Shin.

With strong growth in demand continuing in emerging markets and also in developed markets, he said it was "quite possible" annual smartphone sales would reach in 5 years the level of 500 million handsets - roughly in line with industry analysts forecasts -- from less than 200 million sold last year.

PONDERING FREE SATNAV

Samsung, along with the whole cellphone industry, has started to focus increasingly on services and software, after Apple and Google have entered the higher end of the market - helping to boost sales of the top-end phones even in recession.

"We are a terminal suppler as of today, but this year I'd like to make some meaningful changes," JK Shin said - adding this would mean delivering access to valuable content and software in addition to innovative handsets.

Samsung's only larger rival in cellphones, Nokia, started its transfer away from pure hardware focus in 2007, when it launched its services strategy. Three years later the transformation is still in early phases and the company is far from its annual sales target of 2 billion euros.

JK Shin said the firm considers following Nokia and Google who have started to offer free satellite navigation on their smartphones -- and hitting directly top navigation firms like TomTom and Garmin.

"We consider it actively and positively," he said.

JK Shin said also the company could consider manufacturing Nexus phones for Google in the future. "If there is business opportunity, if there is a customer need -- then we can consider that," he said.

(Editing by Mike Nesbit)

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