Posted : 2013-01-20 15:37
Updated : 2013-01-20 15:37

Can Samsung be cooler than Apple?

A model stands next to Samsung's 110-inch Ultra HD TV at the firm's booth at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
/ AP-Yonhap

By Kim Yoo-chul

Attendees use the Samsung Galaxy Note II at the Las Vegas trade fair. / AFP-Yonhap
Samsung Electronics is the global leader in mobile phones, televisions and computer memory chips.

However, what the Korean company really wants is to be admired, and by successfully injecting creative input into its smart products in recent years, it finally seems to be earning its stripes as an innovator.

The main source of inspiration in the technology industry in recent years has been Apple, the maker of the revolutionary iPhones and iPads and Samsung's bitter industry rival.

But it now seems that Samsung is also beginning to generate excitement ahead of product releases these days.

Its products have been seen as high quality but safe, an approach the management had defended as a fast-follower strategy. The company is now investing Herculean efforts to be more daring.

Its executives met reporters on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month and talked about smartphones that could bend and be built around advanced organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens that provide stunning pictures with lower power consumption.

Long gone are the days when Samsung was considered as the poor man's Sony.

A recent Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey ranked the Korean firm third among global companies in innovation after Apple and Google. InterBrand, another global consultancy, has named Samsung the world's ninth-most valuable brand overall.

''Samsung's transition to smartphones with flexible and unbreakable screens is an important development that will likely take place within the year,'' Fitch Ratings said to clients in its latest internal analysis.

The exploding market for mobile devices has quickly turned into a duopoly between Samsung and Apple.

The American company has been uneasy about the ascent of its rival, evidenced by the lawsuit it has brought against Samsung in several countries since last year, accusing it of selling copycat products.

In terms of volume, Samsung has already edged Apple in the smartphone market and it seems that Apple is being increasingly pressured to adjust it strategies to its main competitor, not the other way around.

It was Samsung that has been pushing the trend of larger screens for smartphones and the expanded display of iPhone 5 represents an adjustment.

Some industry officials believe that the strengthening market presence of Samsung may force Apple to introduce new products quicker than its current once-a-year pace.

Fitch expects Apple to launch a cheaper iPhone later this year and the shift will reduce Samsung's profit.

However, Fitch expects that Samsung, which had a 32 percent share of the global smartphone market in the third quarter of 2012, twice that of Apple's 16 percent, will likely widen the gap with its rival, thanks to a broader lineup of devices that target different markets.

Samsung plans to sell a record 510 million phones this year with smartphone sales reaching 390 million, The Korea Times has learned. The company has high expectations for its upcoming Galaxy S IV and Galaxy Note III handsets.

Microsoft, Huawei, ZTE and Sony are among firms also involved in designing and manufacturing flexible OLED screens. But its agreed that Samsung is closest to manage mass producing them.

The transition toward OLED screens could force Apple's hand as well, when the iPhone 5, which uses liquid crystal display (LCD), has failed to impress in terms of battery power.

''Apple is no longer the sole innovative force in the market and Samsung is garnering just as much attention and influencing technology just as much. That's why we believe the iPhone maker will drop its traditional one-product-a-year strategy and put more focus on earnings and revenue,'' said leading local consultancy RoA Consulting,.

''Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was negative about outlook of Samsung's 7-inch tablet. But Apple is now aggressive about pushing tablets of the same size. Meanwhile, Apple is accelerating its efforts to commercialize iTV, an area where it will find Samsung as the player to beat.''

No trouble in parts sourcing

Samsung's edge over Apple lies in its dual strengths in parts and finished products.

Apple will occasionally struggle to meet its production targets due to inconsistent supply from partners in Taiwan and Japan. Samsung is rarely in that situation.

The dispute over intellectual property has Apple doubling its efforts to reduce reliance on Samsung's screens and chips. However, the Korean firm still provides the key iPhone and iPad parts.

Samsung believes that its expanding business with rising manufacturers from China, including Huawei, TCL and ZTE, will compensate for the drop in orders from Apple.

At the CES, Samsung announced its eight-core processor, the Exynos 5, which is far better than the current quad-core processors, and company officials say the announcement was aimed at showing strong prowess in chip-making development.

''Samsung's business portfolio is ideally positioned. It can roll out diversified products while it has no problems to put money earned from smartphones into future and advanced parts technology,'' said a senior fund manager from a U.S.-based investment bank by telephone.

He believes Samsung shares will rise to over 2 million won in the third quarter of this year.

관련 한글 기사

`삼성 스타일’ 먹혔다

애플의 하락세가 심상치 않다.

과거 `혁신의 아이콘’으로 상징됐던 애플이 전략폰인 아이폰5 판매부진에 시달리면서 주가는 하락하고 있고 삼성전자와의 인지도는 좁혀지고 있다. 

이번엔 미국의 유력 경제매체가 직접 삼성전자의 휘어지는 유기발광다이오드 (OLED) 제품을 직접 거론하며 애플의 기술이 삼성전자를 따라오지 못하고 꼬집었다.

애플 팬들은 아직도 삼성을 `애플 모방꾼’이라고 생각하고 있지만 전문가들은 삼성전자가 소비가전전시회(CES)등 영향력 있는 국제 전시회에서 휘어지는 OLED TV, 엑시노스 Octa 등을 발표하면서 전 세계 소비자들에게 강렬한 인상을 심어주기 시작했다고 말하고 있다.

일각에서는 애플이 최소한의 자존심을 지키기 위해 삼성과 벌이고 있는 법정공방에서 애국심에 호소해야 할지도 모른다고 내다보고 있다.

삼성전자 입장에서 가장 고무적인 부분은 권위있는 컨설팅 회사, 신용평가사들이 회사의 하드웨어 경쟁력에 주목하고 있다는 점이다. 하드웨어 경쟁력이 인정받으면서 브랜드 가치 또한 수직 상승하고 있기 때문.

영국의 신용평가사인 피치 (Fitch)는 최근 보고서에서 ``삼성전자가 휘어지고 깨지지않는 디스플레이를 장착한 스마트폰으로 전환하고 있다는 사실은 향후 몇 년간 글로벌 소비가전시장에서의 트렌드를 읽을 수 있는 중요한 포인트’’라고 평했다.

미국의 시장 조사업체인 ABI리서치는 한 발 더 나가 내년부터 삼성전자가 애플을 제치고 기술 리더쉽을 가져갈 것으로 내다봤다.

ABI는 ``삼성전자가 결국에는 기술, 소프트웨어, 단말기에서 애플을 추격해 리더쉽을 이어갈 것’’이라고 강조하면서 ``향후 스마트폰 운영체제의 판도는 삼성이 바다, 타이젠, 윈도폰, 안드로이등 4가지 운영체제 포트폴리오를 어떻게 위치시키느냐에 크게 영향을 받을 것’’이라고 전망했다.

iOS만 고집하는 폐쇄적인 애플과 달리 운영체제를 다양하게 가져가는 삼성전자의 전략이 급변하는 소비가전시장에 더 적합하다는 분석인 셈.

주요 외신들도 ABI의 보고서를 인용하며 애플은 `보조(second fiddle)’의 역할에 그치게 될 것이라는 비관적인 전망을 내놓았다.

미국의 격주간 경제전문지인 포브스 역시 최근호에서 ``삼성이 휘어지는 디스플레이를 장착한 전략 제품들을 시장에 쏟아낼 경우 애플이 치명타를 입을 것’’이라며 ``휘어지는 디스플레이를 확보하기 어려운 애플이 앞으로 삼성전자와의 제품 경쟁과 기술개발 등 모든 면에서 뒤쳐질 수 밖에 없는 상황’’이라고 진단했다.

삼성전자의 한 관계자는 ``진화(evolution)와 혁신(revolution)은 분명히 다른 개념이나 어찌됐든 각 지역과 소비자 취향에 맞춰 제품을 적기에 출시하는 삼성전자의 `융단 폭격’ 전략이 애플을 나락으로 떨어뜨리고 있다는 것은 사실’’이라고 말했다.

실지로 삼성전자는 갤럭시 돌풍에 힘입어 5분기 연속 사상 최대 실적을 이어가고 있다.

한편 보스턴컨설팅 그룹이 선정한 `2012년 전 세계에서 가장 혁신적 기업’에 삼성전자는 전년보다 무려 8계단 상승한 3위를 기록했다. 또 인터브랜드 (InterBrand)는 삼성전자를 글로벌 브랜드 9위에 올려놓았다.

이 관계자는 ``비록 애플이 스마트폰 시장과 태블릿 PC 시장을 창조했지만 시장을 어떻게 키워나가고 주도권을 쥐는 것이 더 중요한 부분’’이라며 ``삼성전자가 가진 장점을 바탕으로 혁신 제품을 내 놓는데 꾸준히 노력할 것’’이라고 덧붙였다.

삼성전자는 내달 스페인 바르셀로나에서 열리는 정보통신 전시회인 `모바일 월드 콩그레스 (Mobile World Congress)’에서 8인치 태블릿과 전략 스마트폰인 갤럭시S4를 공개하는 방안을 검토중이다.

또 올 하반기에는 6.3인치 OLED에 옥타코어를 장착한 갤럭시노트3도 내 놓을 예정이다.

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