An Android Wear-based Samsung smartwatch would echo Samsung’s past strategy

Kevin at Gigaom had news today that Samsung could very well be working on a new smartwatch powered by Android Wear.

While at first it might seem surprising that the company would use a Google-centric OS just when they seem to moving away from Google control with its big bet on Tizen for wearables as well as phones, history tells us this would make perfect sense. Samsung has long employed a multi-OS and platform strategy within the mobile and smart TV space, so doing so with wearables would mirror the company’s past behavior.

To wit:

  • While Samsung market share in the smartphone space has been achieved largely on the back of Android, it’s also pushed resources into developing its own smartphone stack, first with Bada and now with Tizen.
  • In smart TVs. Samsung has primarily used Linux with its own associated app platform, but also sold Google TV smart TVs and Android TV set-tops.

But the question needs to be asked, why does Samsung do this? After all, there’s a risk of market confusion, for developers as well as consumers.

I think the answer is two part. The first reason is that Samsung likes to be aggressive in new markets as a way to gain market share, and it does so with fast model iteration and lots of SKUs.  In other words, Samsung doesn’t mind throwing lots of spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.  With the Gear, there are already three SKUs for the Gear 2, the second generation of Samsung smartwatches, released a mere half-year after the Gear. Lots of noodles.

Second, while I think Samsung likes the idea of controlling its own destiny, I think it realizes that hedging its bets with Google makes sense and can ultimately can be very profitable. Imagine if the company had not jumped on Android and instead poured all of its efforts into Bada  – chances are they wouldn’t be the leading smartphone company in the world now.

Bottom line, I can see the company doing something with Android Wear.  I think doing so might have some risk, particularly since Samsung is perceived a a market leader right now in the nascent smartwatch space, but ultimately the company has shown that a diversified strategy has worked for it in the past.