Samsung Aims for the Masses With bada, But Will Developers Bite?

Samsung-Intros-Mobile-Platform-bada-3GSamsung today unveiled plans to launch a new mobile software layer in the hopes of bringing high-end, smartphone-style apps to a broad range of its handsets. The question, of course, is whether it can lure developers to the platform.

Samsung’s bada — which means “ocean” in the Korean company’s native tongue — is an open platform designed to allow developers to create full-blown mobile apps for handsets that may not run a traditional smartphone operating system. While Samsung isn’t disclosing many details, bada is described as a software platform — not a competing OS — that rides atop the company’s proprietary phone software, and that could run on top of Linux. The manufacturer is releasing a full SDK and Samsung handset simulator, and plans to woo developers at a conference next month in Seoul, Korea, with events in London and San Francisco to follow in January.

But those developers have an ever-increasing number of attractive platforms on which to build their apps. Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone dominates the smartphone app space, of course, but Google (s goog) is gaining traction in a big way with the recent launch of Verizon’s (s vz) Droid initiative, and Research In Motion (s rimm) is building out an app store to serve its massive customer base. What’s more, those vendors are luring developers by dangling millions of dollars in prize money.

Described by one Samsung executive as the company’s “landmark, iconic new platform,” bada will launch for developers next month and will make its commercial debut in handsets in the first half of 2010. Apps developed using bada will be available through Samsung’s Application Store. As the company noted in a press release:

“By adopting Samsung bada, users will be able to easily enjoy various applications on their mobile,” the manufacturer said in a prepared statement. “Samsung bada also offers an easy-to-integrate platform for mobile operators so that mobile operators can provide unique and differentiated services to their customers.”

While the thought of yet another mobile platform may seem ridiculous, the strategy at the heart of bada is compelling. As GetJar has proven, there’s a substantial demand for apps by users who don’t own high-end smartphones. If bada can help developers address a broad base of handsets simply by making a few small tweaks to existing smartphone apps — which is no mean feat — it may gain traction with the kingmakers of the mobile realm.