Will Apple envy wreck Samsung?

By , Computerworld |  IT Management, Apple, Samsung

It could switch from other people's software to its own, dropping Android and Google TV and using Tizen for mobile devices and smart TVs exclusively.

Or it could offer a mix of other people's -- and its own -- platform software.

None of those options is a good one.

If Samsung doesn't move big into software, the company will continue to function mostly as a hardware maker. As phones, laptops, tablets and smartphones become increasingly commoditized over time, margins will shrink as they do with commoditized hardware, and Samsung's profitability in consumer electronics will decline.

If Samsung chooses Option 2 and drops Android, it will lose many of its best customers.

I did an informal poll on Google+, where some of the most active and influential Samsung smartphone fans congregate, and found that most of them like Samsung because the company is perceived as the best maker of Android phones.

In other words, their loyalty is to Android, not Samsung hardware, and those users will continue to buy what they judge to be the best smartphone, as long as it runs Android. I would expect the majority of Samsung customers around the world to continue to buy Samsung phones even if they were available running Tizen exclusively. However, I also believe the majority of big-spending users -- the ones who buy premium phones and plenty of apps and content and who are the best targets for advertising -- will drop Samsung when Samsung drops Android.

Again, Samsung will be left going after crumbs in the low end of the market -- and that's not the Apple model or the road to success.

Finally, and most likely, if Samsung goes with Option 3 and offers customers a choice between Android and Tizen, it will never get the Tizen app ecosystem off the ground. The best customers will choose Android because of the maturity of the platform and because of the existence of hundreds of thousands of apps for Android.

To emulate Apple and Google is to develop a platform and stick to it. You can't imagine, for example, Apple launching the iPhone in 2007 and telling users that it can run iOS, Android or some other alternatives. No, the Apple approach is to say: The phone runs iOS -- that's the only platform. The Google approach is to say: Android is our platform.

If Samsung offered its own software platform and alternatives, it's hard to see how the company would ever get the critical mass it needs for its own platform to succeed.

I think most users will welcome Samsung's new initiatives -- more competition and more options can only benefit users. But it's not clear how all this will benefit Samsung.

Samsung has a serious case of Apple envy. But you don't become Apple by offering users a choice of operating systems.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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