SK Telecom pushes Android

It's CES time again and ahead of the show, Google and Apple have warmed up the audience*, Palm afficionados braced themselves for a new Pre-view, and HDTV confirmed it's dispositions to grow smarter and 3D.

But I'd like to get back to what's happening in Korea right now. Following iPhone's successful launch ("
iPhone rocks Seoul and sacred cows"), both SK Telecom and KT are left without decent app stores of their own. We saw how SKT relied too timidly on the Samsung Omnia, but KT didn't play it smart either, stuck in the iPhone trap : on one hand you want to optimize your ROI in the Apple partnership, on the other you need to grow you own ecosystem and avoid the iPhone dependence. And which model do you think KT proposed as a plan B ? The same Omnia.**

SK Telecom started the new year with a higher profile : it's both high time to turn the WIPI page and the best moment to build Korea's leading platform against Apple. Android got the regulatory nod and ahead of the commercial launch, SKT proposed a "T-Store Application Contest" to developpers (reward : KRW 40 M or about USD 35.3 k).

The first Android device will be a Motorola (in February), but 11 other handsets are planned by EOY 2010, mostly from Korean manufacturers, who cannot afford lagging behind any longer : beyond Korea, they target China, where a big chunk of 2010-2011 smartphone market shares will be taken (even in case of a probable second dip). US (Motorola) and Taiwan (HTC) won't wait for Korea Inc.

It's not just about Samsung and LG : the whole ecosystem needs to catch up, and the future of many Taehangno service providers and start-ups depends on their ability to ride the next wave. SK Telecom can recover its mojo if it acts as a smart and swift leader. Again.

mot-bile 2010

* the former
going at iPhone's throat with his Nexus One, the latter preparing a counteroffensive into Big G's mobile advertising dreamland (Quattro Wireless will fill a gap in Cupertino's portfolio).

** note that the iPhone-Omnia battle has recently shifted in favor of Samsung : if more than 240,000 iPhones have been sold so far, Omnia is now leading in daily sales. Very much like the lack of 3G played against Apple during its 2007 launch, rivals pointed out the lack of connectivity (WiFi but moreover and as expected DMB), but also dramatized the fact that you cannot replace batteries with an iPhone. Seeding doubt in consumer minds done, more positive messages could start passing. For instance, Omnia's DivX player more often mentioned.

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