Like many other OEMs Samsung started by copying what was proven to work when it comes to smartphones. This got them into some trouble with Apple, which ended in a patent lawsuit, but no matter what Apple did to Samsung, the damage was already done. Samsung showed consumers that Apple wasn't the only company who could produce a smart phone. This strategy of using what has been proven in the market, as well as adding a few innovations of their own, has launched Samsung into the number one spot for Android smartphones, and number two over all second only to Apple. The problem Samsung is faced with now, is how to keep that spot, or better yet, overtake Apple. The key to that goal will be innovation. Let's take a brief look into technology strategies that have been used, and where they have succeeded and failed.
Companies that seem to copy others when producing their products are commonly refered to as "fast-followers". These companies play it safe by using technology that has been proven in their respective fields. Sometimes these companies can produce products that copy, but add just enough of their own spin to become successful. Other times, this system doesn't work and the company quickly flops. Take Sony for example, they started during World War II, making tape recorders, a technology that was already being made by others. Almost ten years later, Sony was able to make a mass market transistor radio. That simple innovation launched Sony on their way to becoming a very respectable company. Sony was able to turn that success into product firsts, like the Playstation and the Walkman.
This strategy doesn't always work, in fact, it fails more often than not, like the company Zynga. Zynga started making games that were essentially copies of Facebook's and other mobile games. Problem is, they couldn't keep up, so this strategy quickly failed, and that showed when Zynga went public. Currently, the stock has gone down 57% from where they started when they first went public. Another example would be Microsoft, who did the very same thing as Samsung. Copy other companies in some aspects, while sprinkling in their own innovations, just enough to seem different. You may know that Microsoft also couldn't keep up with technology and is now falling behind. Luckily for Samsung, this strategy has worked for them, though they may never fully admit to this ever being their strategy. It is however, just the way things work and almost every startup company will follow this guideline. So now that Samsung is in the top spot, they need to focus on keeping that spot.
It isn't easy anymore for Samsung to wait for others to test the waters with an idea. Instead, Samsung needs to be the trend setter, making their innovations the things that smaller OEMs want to copy. Samsung Chairman, Lee Kun Hee, gave a speech to employees last year saying they need, "a bigger push for innovations, including in business structure, so that we can lead industry trends." This means that Samsung needs to change the way they work inside and out, essentially they are in uncharted territory without a plan.
Some suggestions have been thrown out into the air by Horace Dediu, who runs a mobile consulting firm called Asymco. According to Dediu, "Innovation today is something that involves a systems-wide approach. Fundamentally, I cannot see [Samsung succeeding] unless Samsung goes into the software-and-services business. Software and services is where all the action is." That brings us to Tizen, a software developed by Samsung. The development of Tizen is behind schedule, partially because of Samsung relying on the same strategy they did before. Google had to call Samsung out because they seemed to be adding features of Tizen into Android on their devices. This was an attempt to make the switch from Android to Tizen easier. Though Google wasn't a fan of that happening, and put a stop to it real quick. Like Samsung, we are left to wonder what they have to offer that can keep them in the top spot. If they don't come up with something soon, we may see other companies take the lead, or what could be terrible for all of us, Apple growth. What do you think it will take for Samsung to keep the top spot, will they need to innovate in software as well as design, or will design and features be enough?