A couple articles came out today, one from Reuters one from MIT, that illustrate just how sticky and compelling Apple devices are. And one of the articles comes from an interview with a Samsung exec. The takeaway point: Samsung can’t be open and sticky. It’s the closed and interoperable system that Apple has made that works.
Just because it’s fun, let’s lead off with the MIT Technology review interview with Samsung’s Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn. I’ve included the three important questions and answers in their entirety here so you get the entire context of the exchange:
What technologies will you be focusing on?
Samsung has always been known as a device company, a semiconductor company, a display company, and now a mobile-phone company. We make really great devices, but actually if you think of our future, it’s in answering the question of how we put it all together and how we manage the data that’s coming out of these devices and encourage the innovation ecosystem for our platforms.
If you go around and talk to venture capitalists here, they’ll say the areas of growth are in cloud technologies, big-data technologies, mobile-ecosystem technologies, and enterprise infrastructure. These are all very critical things we’ll be looking at.
Can you say more about why these technology categories are so important?
OK, so think about Apple compared to Samsung. I use a Mac, actually, at home. I’ve always used Mac, an iPhone, and an iPad. I also have the Galaxy. So I’m a great example.
If you look at the strengths of Apple, in a way it’s not the product per se. It’s that consumers like their ecosystem such as iCloud. I like that my family 6,000 miles away in Korea is able to see my schedule and see all of my contacts and photos. It is sticky, but it is a proprietary architecture.
Look at your phone [pointing to my Samsung Galaxy Nexus]. It’s a better phone, in my view. It’s a better display. It’s faster. But eventually the connected ecosystem is really critical.
I think we have probably the largest platform in the world between the devices and displays and televisions we sell. We actually provide more devices that are interacting with consumers than anyone in the world. But if you think about our experiences, it’s device-centric. It’s experienced by itself. It’s not experienced in a connected way. So we think we can provide a lot more things than what we are doing today with an open ecosystem with our partners.
Wait, you are still using Apple products?
At work I’m using Samsung devices; Apple at home, mainly because all of my systems and files are done that way. That’s sticky, you know? However, I did figure out how to sync all of my contacts and all of my schedules between the two different systems. You can do it. It’s a bit of work, but it is possible.
There are several key parts to this exchange that are essential to understand. First is the “keep your friends closer, your enemies closer” aspect. Mr Sohn still uses (and I’d guess loves) his Apple products at home. That’s a good thing too, because if you’re going to challenge Apple in ease of use, connectivity, an smooth user experience you have to use the devices and applications on a daily basis to understand them. Beyond personal preference, by being able to show the engineers at Samsung “see, this is how it should be done, now do it better (and don’t copy it!)” Sohn gives not only an example but the personal connection and reasons why it’s important. This is important stuff if you want to take the top prize.
Next is the “You can do it. It’s a bit of work, but it’s possible” quote. This is something that Samsung/Google/Android devs need to really look at and fix. If you want people to jump to your device you must assume that the person will have an iOS device already and they don’t want to give it up. You need to make sure that people can use either device and switch between them easily. Want to get people to judge your devices on great specs and performance? Great, but you have to make sure it doesn’t throw their existing world in to chaos.
Finally it’s the notion of being “sticky”, I’ve talked about this a lot myself. Sure I see that many Android and Samsung products have an edge over Apple. Great, but I have so much of my world tied into Apple, I don’t see any reason to switch (see above point). Oh and it’s not just me or a Samsung exec who feels this way, Reuters surveyed a few thousand people world-wide and found the exact same thing:
Loyalty to Apple’s compelling orchard of products seemed to be a first line of defense for the Cupertino, California, company as shoppers in Europe, Asia and the United States weighed the pros and cons of switching to rival offerings.
Customers cited existing iTunes music and video libraries plus the traditional Apple virtues of simplicity and ease of use as reasons to stick with the iPhone and the iPad.
“I just taught my Persian grandmother how to use her new iPhone. She’s 77 and speaks no English,” said Soheil Arzang, a 27-year-old law student in Palo Alto, California. “With a Windows PC there are so many buttons, it’s confusing. I converted my parents officially to Apple iPhones, Macs and iPads.” As global consumers shop mobile, Apple outshines rivals | Reuters
So if Samsung or Google really want Android to be the must use system, then every single part of the system has to work together as easily as Apple products do. To do that, I think Samsung is going to wind up creating their own ecosystem that might have a foundation on Android, but will really be their own thing.
Closed is as to sticky is Open is to “who cares, will it work with my stuff”.