The S Ecosystem: Is Samsung following in Amazon's Footsteps?
Though many question Samsung's originality, I don't think anyone can deny that their mobile products are extremely successful. Upon release, the Galaxy S II and III were immediately crowned The Best of not only Samsung but all Android phones (more so the Galaxy S II--Samsung faced stiffer competition in 2012 with HTC's One X). Recently, however, it seems as though Samsung has decided it is more than just another Android OEM.
Much to the frustration of pure Android fans, Samsung has insisted on coating Google's OS with TouchWiz. I'm not going to complain about it here, but to say the least, it confused me that any manufacturer--not just Samsung--would want to spend time and effort skinning what is already a nice-looking and full-featured OS. Samsung's proprietary Smart TV platform also frustrated me. Why couldn't they just use Google TV? Why couldn't they let Google handle the software and focus on making awesome hardware? Why fragment Android with stuff like S Cloud and S Voice?
Then I read The Verge's Galaxy Camera announcement. Specifically, what caught my attention was Samsung's statement on the underlying software:
"Stop worrying about Android, it's just tools under the hood. It's what it enables in the devices that's the important part."
I realized Samsung doesn't see Android as a Google product that they're "borrowing." They see it as a convenient base for their own product, which is essentially a "TouchWiz OS." It's not wrong; it's just not what we're used to in an age of PC OEMs using practically unmodified Windows installations (not counting crap like antivirus trials and browser toolbars). Windows is Microsoft's product, not Acer's or HP's or Dell's. Android, on the other had, due mostly to it's open-source nature, is not really Google's; we just like to think it is.
It comes down to completely different views. I, and I think lots of other tech fans, like the simplicity of the Big Three ecosystems: Apple, Google, and Microsoft. I think a lot of us just want hardware manufacturers, like the wireless carriers, to be "dumb pipes" in a way, competing only on hardware without any gimmicks. Samsung, though, wants it's own ecosystem very badly, and rather than using the traditional way of making your stuff from scratch (or at least pretending to), it is using all the resources it has, whether it created them itself or not. It's not what we're used to, which is why the company receives so much flak for turning Android into something else.
It's a lot like what Amazon is doing with the Kindle Fire and, presumably, the Kindle phone. What these devices run isn't really Android any more. It's the Kindle OS, and it integrates with Amazon's products. The only difference is that Amazon made its intentions clear from the beginning, creating its own platform. What Samsung is doing is gradual. It started out making nice Android phones, and now it's transitioning to something else.
That said, I think Samsung will fork Android in the next few years. What they'll call it, I have no idea (Bada 2? TouchWiz OS?), but I think Samsung wants to own just as much of its customers as Apple--even more if you count its appliances and un-Apple-like accessories. Do you agree? I'd love to hear other thougts.