Samsung teases Bada at event, questions still outnumber answers

We've just come back from the Samsung Bada mobile platform launch event in London, and frankly the presentation was no more than an app developer and investor magnet -- no hands-on opportunity and no direct answers regarding the hardware. The only mention of a Bada phone is that something's coming out in the first half of 2010. That said, today Samsung did bring in representatives of five strong Bada app partners: Twitter, Capcom, EA, Gameloft and Blockbuster. Needless to say mobile gaming is high up on Bada's agenda, but the brief presence of Twitter's Head of Mobile, Kevin Thau, solidified Samsung's dedication for integrating SNS (social networking services) sites on mobile handsets. Yes, just like many fish in the sea. Read on to see how Bada aims to be "an ocean of endless enjoyment."


Open platform

Despite the presentation leaving us scratching heads as to what Bada really is, we had the chance to sit down with the platform's Principal Engineer, Dr. Justin Hong, who nicely broke it down for us. Bada's objective is to be "an easy-to-integrate platform" to tickle the interest of developers, but at the same time being able to cover a wide range of device specifications (although Hong admitted there's no plan to implement Bada on old hardware). For now Bada will work on top of Samsung's proprietary SHP (Samsung Handset Platform, which was also led by Hong) OS as found on the Samsung Jet, and will feature the forthcoming TouchWiz 3.0 UI as the icing on the cake. When asked about Symbian Hong simply said there's no decision to support it for Bada, but they'll continue to support multiple OSes -- as promised before -- as the market "always need different OSes" to maintain high customer satisfaction. Frankly, it's just money talk on that last part, as Hong then went on about how they also need to customize their phones to fit the carriers' requirements. What's for sure is that Samsung's committed to provide greater support to Bada developers.

Bada is optimized for developing SNS apps. For example, carriers can easily code in location-based SNS features using just a few lines from a large set of API supporting popular sites like Twitter and Facebook. Another main feature is that Bada will exclusively support multitouch -- or 'multipoint touch', as they like to call it -- phones, and interestingly Hong told us that it will work on both resistive and capacitive touchscreens. Combining both of these features we expect some pretty sweet games. The hardware requirements for Bada are yet to be finalized, but Hong reassured us that Bada's not bound by chipsets, and that the cheapest Bada handset will definitely be cheaper than Android's counterpart. This goes along with Samsung's "Smartphone for Everyone" strategy which, on top of Bada's in-app (and over-the-air) purchasing, equates to greater revenue for the developers if all goes well. Oh, and Bada supports Flash-based apps too -- check out the fancy Chelsea Football Club app simulation toward the end of the video below.

Bada applications

As mentioned earlier, Samsung has several big name studios producing games for the Bada platform. While there were no live demoes, we're already digging Capcom's "Resident Evil: Degeneration", but the rep's constant mentioning of "Street Fighters" is also looking hopeful. Another interesting app is "My Friends" made by Onycom, which essentially aggregates all your social networking contacts -- very much like Palm's Synergy and Motorola's MOTOBLUR. We're not sure if these two will be preloaded on all Bada phones, but what's for sure is that they will have a map app -- "Where to go" by deCarta. We were most impressed by Blockbuster's vision: CIO Neil Davis spoke of offering a seamless media experience where you can stop half way through a Blu-ray disc at home, and then "walk to your car and finish it up on a Bada handset." We queried Samsung about this possibility and sadly its VP of Global Marketing, Younghee Lee, wasn't so optimistic. Spoilsport.


While what Bada's trying to achieve is not totally new, we're impressed by Samsung's success in convincing a handful of high-profile companies to develop apps for this new platform. We're most looking forward to the support of Flash apps as well as what the game developers will offer. If Samsung sticks to its promise about the affordability of Bada phones, then 2010 is going to be an interesting year for the smartphone market.