By Kim Yoo-chul
In a move to cut reliance on Google's Android mobile operating system, Samsung Electronics is considering releasing cheaper handsets running on Microsoft's Windows 8.1 platform, sources said Sunday.
"Samsung has run pilot programs on the stability of Windows 8.1 software on devices. It is interested in promoting Windows mobiles," said an official directly involved.
But the key issue is whether Samsung and Microsoft will settle their ongoing legal dispute over royalties.
"If the companies settle their litigation, then Samsung will manufacture handsets powered by the Microsoft-developed mobile platform," the official said. "The timing could be the third quarter of this year at the earliest."
The move comes as Samsung's handsets with the Tizen platform, which Samsung and Intel have been developing jointly, have not drawn strong support from content developers.
"This year, Samsung will promote the Tizen platform, but the main focus will be TVs, not mobile devices, said an official.
"By releasing a Windows mobile, Samsung could manage its phone business in the low-, mid-, to premium-end sectors."
The plan for a Windows phone depends on the results of the ongoing royalties disputes.
Microsoft is a long-time partner. They are teaming in futuristic business projects related to healthcare and cloud computing.
But handsets are a different story.
Samsung is still asking anti-trust authorities in Korea, China and the U.S. to nullify Microsoft's recent purchases of Nokia's phone business because it would make Microsoft a direct competitor.
Microsoft took Samsung to court after the latter refused to pay royalties and interest on time.
"Microsoft knows Samsung has indisputable strengths in marketing and understands that it will be helpful if it promotes Windows mobiles," the official said.
"Samsung knows this. The two companies are still trying to find common ground."
Samsung last year paid 1 trillion won in royalties to Microsoft. Microsoft reportedly asked Samsung to manufacture handsets to run on its Windows platform in return for updating an earlier licensing agreement.