updated 11:30 am EDT, Mon October 25, 2010
SK Telecom wants own mobile platform
SK Telecom today signaled its plans to get into the mobile platform business. Company chief Jung Man-Won directly billed it as a strategy to "eventually compete against Google, Apple and Nokia" and set aside one trillion Won (about $897 million) over three years to develop the project. Aside from a platform to support third-party apps, it would expand existing services like T Map and T Store into services others could build on. The platform would be available in the US along with China and southeast Asia.
To kick off development, the company has started up an Open Innovation Center that would provide support for developers as well as reflect the company's strategy: it hopes to open up the APIs for its platform before the end of the year and should launch the platform itself as open. Individual developers and partner companies will get a lift with potential funding of up to 50 million Won ($44,849) to help get an app started.
The approach is an unusual one for carriers, which often heavily customize operating systems from other companies rather than build their own. SK Telecom has already tried going beyond stock platforms through its short-lived Helio service in the US but has never tried competing with smartphones.
In its home country, SK Telecom has been the dominant carrier with as much as half of the entire market but has also been hurt by the launch of the iPhone in the country. Apple has sold over one million iPhones through rival KT in the country and may have shaken local phone manufacturers like LG and Samsung after their conservative policies of supporting Windows Mobile and basic phones failed to catch on.
South Korea as a whole has had little success promoting self-developed operating systems, as the Bada platform used on the Samsung Wave hasn't garnered interest outside of Samsung itself.