Two news items about Samsung and Microsoft caught my eye and both are more telling than the actual news itself.
First of all, Samsung’s somewhat homegrown operating system derived from Linux, Tizen is alive, if not quite well, and destined to start life as the Samsung Z1 in… insert drum roll here… India.
What does that say about Samsung and Tizen?
Well, it should be obvious that Samsung is heading downstream to the lower ends of the smartphone market spectrum by selling another plastic device in India, where the population is booming and so are smartphones. Cheap smartphones. And, Samsung doesn’t want the media lights to shine too brightly upon a Tizen-powered smartphone until all the kinks are ironed out.
Tizen running on a plastic phone sans the Google Play app infrastructure destines the Samsung Z1 to 21st century feature phone status. Hardware specifications are decent considering the nominal price tag, but with Tizen it’s not really all that smart of a device, however it’s smart enough to view Bollywood and Hollywood movies (for a fee).
Second, Microsoft has a new found love affair with the low end of the smartphone product spectrum, too, with a couple of new Lumia models– running Windows Phone– to compete against Android in the burgeoning sub-$100 smartphone arena. Other than screen size, hardware specifications are anemic at best, but might be just the ticket for smartphone starved people in Africa, India, and the Middle East– until those markets mature toward the middle tier and premium end of the spectrum.
One thing is absolutely clear with Samsung’s Z1 and Microsoft’s new cheap Lumia models. Both companies are surrendering the premium space to Apple by moving rapidly to a section of the market where Apple cannot and will not go. Cheap.
Because Apple is a premium brand largely distinct in hardware, software, and operating system from the plastic-coated riffraff pushed by Xiaomi, Lenovo, and now Samsung and Microsoft. Cheap is associated with, well, cheap, and plastic. Android and Windows are associated with such devices, good for the masses, but not those who are upwardly mobile, or those who will migrate from lesser brands to name brand goods.
As smartphone markets in India, Africa, and the Middle East mature, a segment of the customer base will become upwardly mobile and that benefits the only remaining premium product maker, Apple.