updated 05:05 pm EDT, Tue August 23, 2011
Korea OS to reduce dependency on iPhone, Android
South Korea's Ministry of Knowledge Economy deputy minister Kim Jae-hong stated late Monday that the country was looking to develop its own mobile and desktop operating systems to reduce dependency on outsiders like Apple and Google. A plan due to start before the end of 2011 would see Korean companies, presumably LG, Samsung, Pantech, and others, make their own open-source platforms both for mobile and a Chrome OS-like desktop. It would also hope to establish a "habitat," Kim told Yonhap and other media outlets, where locals were encouraged to pick their own OS over others.
The move would give Samsung an out should the worst happen in its legal battle with Apple and it requires an alternative. Samsung already has Bada but has largely treated it as an entry-level smartphone platform, with little app and sales support.
The actual threat, however, might be Google. Its buyout of Motorola could lead to Google itself competing against its own hardware partners, leaving Korean phone makers at an inherent disadvantage, Kim suggested. Google has publicly promised that Motorola would be kept as a "separate entity," but leaks have suggested it plans to emulate the Apple model and have Motorola make official Google phones.
Google would likely be safe in the near term. "Because Google is an open-source system, it cannot just switch over to a closed-source system overnight," Kim said.
Apple would most likely welcome a Korea-made OS. As Samsung and LG are two of the largest Android supporters, their lowering dependence on Android would mostly feed into reduced market share for Google, particularly in South Korea. Self-developed platforms, even custom OS variants like China's Android-based Open Mobile System, rarely gain relevance outside of their home countries.
A home web-based OS would be unusual given their poor uptake. Although market share is still unknown, relatively few have bought into Chrome OS so far and instead have opted for either Macs or Windows PCs. Korea would would be trying to take on two of the largest software developers with an OS that might not reach other areas.