Samsung Pursues Developers, Seeking Orbit of Apps

Samsung Pursues Developers, Seeking Orbit of Apps

Smartphone Maker Slated to Hold First Developers Conference This Week


Oct. 27, 2013 2:58 p.m. ET


This week, Samsung Electronics Co. 005930.SE +2.28% plans to hold its first global developers conference at a hotel in San Francisco, a big step in the South Korean smartphone maker’s effort to cultivate a host of software and services for its devices that can compete with those offered by Apple Inc. AAPL -1.12%. It won’t be an easy task, as even Samsung executives admit privately. Samsung built its reputation by streamlining the business of manufacturing electronic devices, and now leads the world in sales of mobile phones. On Friday the company said its net profit jumped 26% in the most recent quarter to a record 8.24 trillion won ($7.8 billion).But as Samsung looks to solidify its market position, it recognizes the need to give its customers a reason to be loyal to its brand—a strategy that involves building an Apple-like suite of software and services that work well together, and can’t easily be found elsewhere.

“Great consumer experiences require not just great devices but a seamless integration of both hardware and software,” Samsung said.

So the company, based in Suwon, South Korea, has been busy making deals with Silicon Valley companies such as Twitter Inc. and file-hosting service Dropbox Inc.

Samsung hopes that such partnerships will distinguish its products from a growing number of primarily Chinese competitors who, like Samsung, sell sleek smartphones that run Google Inc. GOOG -1.01% ‘s Android operating system.

Samsung’s tie-up with Twitter, announced this month, made the popular microblogging service’s new app for Android tablets an exclusive for Samsung tablets ahead of a general release.

The app has features designed specifically to take advantage of Samsung’s proprietary technology, like the S Pen stylus included on many of its smartphones and tablets.

The company’s partnership with Dropbox, which began last year, gives customers of Samsung’s high-end smartphones an extra dollop of storage space on the popular cloud-based service, which is integrated into Samsung’s interface.

Samsung’s conference this week seeks to build on that strategy by attracting software developers who will build apps exclusively for Samsung, or who can help weave together Samsung devices as disparate as its smartphones and televisions. The goal: to give consumers fewer reasons to switch to a rival’s device.

Samsung has signaled its seriousness by hosting its conference in San Francisco, which it calls “the hotbed of innovation when it comes to software development,” and by promising to bring high-level executives.

“We want developers to leave the conference excited to help expand the Samsung ecosystem,” the company said.

The company plans to hold more than 50 technical sessions this week to equip developers with tools for building Samsung-specific apps, while adding the usual mix of keynote speeches and DJ sets to drum up excitement in what Samsung is building.

Holding a developers conference won’t change things for Samsung overnight, of course. It remains to be seen whether Silicon Valley’s top talent will take to the argument that they should develop apps that are “more than just Android,” as Samsung argued in a blog post last week.

Developers can reach a far larger audience by building apps for Apple’s iOS and for all Android devices, including Samsung’s, and will need a powerful incentive to build software that runs solely on Samsung products, no matter how dominant the company’s market share may be right now. its

Their skepticism is likely to be especially high since Samsung’s own proprietary features, like the S Pen stylus and its ChatON messaging app, have failed to excite the tech community.

So far, Samsung also has opted to build most of the key software applications for its devices in house, without the help of, and sometimes in competition with, the third-party developers it is now courting.

All of that will make persuading developers to gamble on Samsung’s fledgling ecosystem a tough sell. Microsoft Corp. MSFT +5.96% and BlackBerry Ltd. BB.T +0.12% , which each struggled to attract developers to its operating system, eventually turned to promising cash or additional promotion to lure app developers, with limited success.

Samsung didn’t respond directly to a question about whether it would use such incentives to attract app makers, but said that it “offers developers several opportunities to bring innovative apps to market and the chance to be recognized,” mentioning developer contests and hackathons.

Samsung declined to say how many developers it expects to attend this week’s conference, but the event is likely to draw a strong crowd, if only because of Samsung’s clout in the industry and curiosity about its plans.

Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, head of mobile for Dropbox, who helped negotiate Dropbox’s partnership with Samsung last year,said he has heard from many app makers who are planning to attend.

But, he adds, “the main reason I keep hearing is not to develop specifically for Samsung, but instead developers want to talk to the Samsung executives responsible for partnerships.”

Even so, the conference, and the rhetoric about the central role that developers will play in Samsung’s future, marks another step in the company’s growing software ambitions

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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