Windows PC History Repeats Itself

For four years Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has basked in the success of its Galaxy smartphones, making billions of dollars competing with Apple Inc in the premium mobile market.

The coming years are set to be more somber for the South Korean tech giant, as it is forced to slash prices and accept lower margins at its mobile division in order to see off competition from rivals including China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Xiaomi Inc in the mid-to-low end of the market.

Behind Samsung’s reality-check is the fact it is stuck with the same Android operating system used by its low-cost competitors, who are producing increasingly-capable phones of their own.

Samsung glamour days over as it fights to save mobile market share, Se Young Lee, Reuters

Having Android running on everything from shitty, bottom-of-the-barrel phones to premium devices is great example of democratizing technology: getting it in everyone’s hands, regardless of income. But how do you differentiate your product if you’re an OEM?

You could argue that if Samsung had always just sold premium hardware they might have avoided having to make their current price cuts. The truth is they (and many other OEMs) have always thrown as many price tiers of Android devices to the wall to see what sticks. This has resulted in Android brand doesn’t conjure up thoughts of amazing, premium devices.

It’s as if Ferrari licensed their body panels and frame to other car makers to put whatever engines and electronics they wanted into them. Sure, you could find better/faster Ferrari versions than others but anyone could get a “Ferrari”.




Samsung brings forward its Galaxy Note release to August to gain some ground against rival Apple:

In a break with recent tradition, Samsung Electronics Co. will move up the autumn launch of its oversize smartphone lineup by several weeks to mid-August, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The South Korean company’s move is part of a bid to give its Galaxy Note smartphone-tablet hybrids some breathing room before mid-September, when Apple Inc. typically unveils its refreshed iPhone—a product whose popularity has the potential to monopolize media and consumer attention for weeks.






If consumers don’t see your brand as premium, then it’s not.

Over at Forbes, Ewan Spence on the pricing of the Samsung S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge:

Pricing details around Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are starting to come out, with an expected street price in the UK of £550 for the SIM-free Galaxy S6 (and £650 for the Galaxy S6 Edge). While these prices are unconfirmed, they are higher than the entry-level competition of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Arguably the price difference could come down to Samsung running with 32 GB of storage compared to the 16 GB Apple has fitted to the iPhones, but I do like the idea of Samsung exploiting a higher price than Apple. If the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge handsets turn out to be more expensive than the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, then Samsung will have some powerful arguments available to help sell the device.

Spence “likes the idea of Samsung exploiting a higher price than Apple.”

That’s cute.

Wait, Spence has more brilliance in his brain to share:

Now the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge have the advantage Samsung should push hard on the specifications battle. That will be helped by Apple essentially ducking the numbers fight, so Samsung should be able to play hard on the fact that the S6 is a more powerful phone with more features.

And the easiest way to say that a phone is ‘better’ than another phone is to be more expensive.

Is that the easiest way to say ‘better’? Just make it more expensive? Maybe Toyota should try that with their Corolla. Just add $10K to the price tag.

Premium pricing only works if your brand is perceived at premium and this perception is controlled by people who buy your products, not the company making them.

I don’t think this will prove a winning strategy for Samsung, but since they’re clearly in the game to copy everything Apple does, fuck it. Go for it, Samsung.




 /  /  / 

Samsung: Copy? Yes. Transform? No. Combine? No.

There’s a great TED Talk with Kirby Feguson up on Vimeo’s Tumblr. It’s a 10-minute version of his awesome 4-part film series, Everything Is A Remix.

He starts off his presentation explaining how, at the height of his career, Bob Dylan was accused by “a small minority of dissenters” of stealing other peoples’ songs. He then fast-forwards to 2004 to talk about DJ Dangermouse’s The Grey Album, which was a remix of The Beatles The White Album and Jay-Z’s The Black Album.

The three techniques used to create these albums:

Copy. Transform. Combine.

But Ferguson says these techiques are not exclusive to music:

But I think these aren’t just the components of [music] remixing. I think these are the basic elements of all creativity. I think everything is a remix and I think this is a better way to conceive of creativity.

He then goes on to talk about the patent wars between smartphone manufacturers going on today. He calls out the apparent hypocrisy behind Steve Jobs’ intention “to go thermonuclear war” on Android for copying iOS and the iPhone when seen in the context of the original Macintosh being ‘inspired’ by the pinoneering work by Xerox PARC on the graphical user interface (GUI). To his credit, Ferguson talks about the theory of loss aversion–it’s ok when I copy another person’s work, but it’s not ok when someone else copies me (To use Ferguson’s language, Apple didn’t just copy the GUI work done at Xerox PARC, they combined and transformed it into something completely new with the Macintosh, but I’ll leave this for another post). Which leads me to Samsung.

Apple’s beef with Samsung isn’t that it stole Apple’s hardware and software—it’s that they copied Apple’s hardware, software, marketing and retail store design (via The Loop). Samsung has had no intention to remix anything they copied from Apple. Samsung’s intention with all of it’s Android smartphones has been to align as closely as possible with the look and feel of Apple products. Bob Dylan took melodies note-for-note from old folk songs, but you’re never confused. You always know it’s Dylan. This is because Dylan copied, transformed and remixed old media into something new.

Samsung stopped at copying and never bothered to remix anything. This is why many people confuse Samsung phones running Android for iPhones.

Update: Jim Dalrymple talked about this the other day too:

Apple had two blockbuster hit songs and Samsung stole them, note for note. That’s not right.

Microsoft and Palm also came out with smartphones after the iPhone. It’s interesting Jobs and Apple never went ‘thermonuclear’ on them like they did Samsung. I have a feeling this is because both Microsoft and Palm took the time to remix (in various degrees, Microsoft more than Palm) what Apple started with the iPhone. Does webOS look a lot like iOS? Absolutely. It has the DNA of the iPhone in it (Makes sense. The VP of hardware at Apple, Jon Rubinstein, became CEO at Palm/HP during that time). But if you’ve used a Palm Pre, you know it’s a Palm Pre. It has many characteristics unique to it, like cards and the Quick Wave Launcher.

Windows Phone 7 did the same thing, but they went even further. I’m not even sure you could say Microsoft even started with the Copy technique. They turned icons into tiles. They threw away drop shadows and gradients. They transformed the smartphone into something that makes sense to them.

Competition is important. Apple should not be the only company allowed to make multi touch smartphones and tablets, but to copy, almost pixel-for-pixel, what Apple has created is to concede Apple has done everything perfectly with iOS and the iPhone. The thing is, they haven’t. When a company creates a new smartphone they have the opportunity to remix what’s been done and present something fresh and new.

Maybe all Samsung wants is a product approaching ‘iPhone-ness’, but I’d like to think they have a lot of talented designers, developers and engineers who could come up with something good, maybe even great. People with the ability to remix.

Then I always remember we’re talking about a hardware company that doesn’t know how to make software. Who seems to have no interest in learning how to make software. Who licenses their mobile operating system from another company.