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Samsung Lights a Match for New Innovation Trail

By Peter Suciu
May 28, 2013 3:48 PM PT

Samsung piqued media interest this week with an invitation to a June 20 event in London, where it is expected to unveil its latest Galaxy smartphones and tablets, along with new entrants in its ATIV lineup of Windows devices.

Samsung Lights a Match for New Innovation Trail

In appears Samsung is hedging its bets and covering the bases with both Android and Windows-based devices. What exactly the line-up will entail, and what other devices might be unveiled is speculation at this point. However, among the most likely possibilities for a London unveiling are a Galaxy S4 Mini smartphone, a convertible laptop, the Galaxy S4 Zoom camera -- or something completely different.

Samsung's Climb

While many consumer electronics companies hold press events, most attract attention only after the fact. However, Samsung has joined an exclusive club of companies -- led by Apple -- that are able to drum up excitement in the lead-up to an annoucement.

For the next three weeks, rumors will leak, and the buzz will build -- but just how did Samsung acquire this corporate charisma?

"Samsung has succeeded by focusing relentlessly on improving its devices faster and by focusing on screen characteristics, thinness and light weight as key characteristics of their phones," said Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.

"What helped Samsung is that its competitors, including Apple, have not innovated as quickly ..., and therefore Samsung was able to close the gap compared to Apple or overtake them as in the case of the other Android providers," he explained.

"The marketing has certainly helped but was probably of lesser importance than the features of the device," Entner added.

It is the fact that Samsung has taken on Apple that has made this such a unique story. While Google is Apple's biggest rival for the operating system, Samsung is the company that has been able to deliver a solid lineup of competing products running the Android OS.

"Samsung has done what no other vendor was willing to do and took the fight to Apple," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "They basically worked to destroy the perception that Apple's products were magical and special, and after first copying Apple's products, then innovated on those copies -- and now Apple is chasing Samsung."

New Products, More Innovation

While innovation may be the son of necessity -- to put a spin on the proverb -- innovation is also what keeps companies on the top of the heap. Here is where Samsung may have done it better than most.

"This is the traditional story of working hard for years to get better and better, and then suddenly the marketplace realizes, hey, this is great. Then from that time on, it seems like a sudden rise to fame," said telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan.

The technology has not improved that dramatically, that quickly. Rather, it is just that the marketplace has finally recognized that Samsung is a great company with a great product mix," Kagan told TechNewsWorld. "Suddenly Samsung and the customer are tuned to the same frequency."

Of course, just as other companies have had their time in the sun, what may matter most is whether Samsung will continue to innovate. The teaser for the London event shows an understanding that this is expected.

"How long will this last? Who knows, but it won't last forever. It never does," said Kagan. "Like Sony in the 1990s with their Walkman or more recently Apple, the rising wave doesn't last forever."

Keeping It Burning

To keep innovation going requires a steady stream of greater innovations.

"The company must continue to feed the fire to keep it blazing, and they must continue to create new fires as well," added Kagan.

"Is Samsung really better than other hot handsets? Yes and no. If you are interested in the features that Samsung offers, then the answer is yes. If not, the answer is no," he observed.

"However, once a company starts the meteoric climb up, they must keep feeding the fire or they will quickly crest," he added. "That is the hard part. It's easy in the early years, but get's much harder as time passes."

Taking a Chunk Out of Apple

Samsung's teaser suggests it may have reached the place where Apple once found itself -- but it has done so without an iconic figure like Steve Jobs. That could suggest that consumers are more concerned with Samsung's devices than the way they're presented.

"Apple isn't a good fast follower, and even with the drag Google and Android placed on the company, Samsung has largely replaced Apple in smartphones," Enderle told TechNewsWorld. "It was really brilliantly done, but likely required Jobs to be gone before this strategy could have been successfully executed. They basically rolled over the vastly weaker Tim Cook."

Has Apple unwillingly passed the torch to Samsung? If so, can it snatch it back, or will there be another bearer after Samsung? What might Apple's response to the London event even be, if anything? Perhaps a sixth iPhone? Something else?

"We'll see how Apple will respond to the advance of the Galaxy S4," said Entner, "when it [comes] out with its next device."

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