Samsung: Apple's new arch-enemy?

Noah Kravitz
 from Oakland, CA
Published: September 20, 2010

Last week in New York Samsung officially took the wraps off of their new US market offerings: A tablet computer, an audio/video play to sell content to owners of the tablet and its smartphone kin, and a new online presence heavily influenced by social networking. 

No, Samsung didn't launch iPad, iTunes and Ping; they launched Galaxy Tab, Media Hub, and the new Samsung.com. But the parallels to Apple's recent moves are striking.

To be fair, everyone and their cousin is going mobile, going tablet, going online content, and going social these days. It's just what you have to do to compete, or so it seems. But wow if Samsung - a giant company who sells tons of TVs, cameras and all sorts of other CE goods in addition to phones and tablets - isn't strapping up to take the fight to Apple on their own court.

I've been among the many to chide Sammy a bit for aping iPhone's design in the look and feel of the Galaxy S line of phones. But there's no patent on "simple device dominated by a large toucshcreen" nor "user interface built around a simple grid of icons," and since I happen to think simple is a nice way to go when designing a product, the usability of Samsung's latest smartphones has done more to impress me over the past few weeks than any feelings of deja-iPhone-vu may have turned me off to the Galaxy initially. The phones are powerful, smooth, and arguably more attractive to the non-geek user than stock Android phones. Sprint's variant, the Epic 4G, even prompted me to use phrases like, "The best phone in the world," which I tend to stay away from as much as possible.

Seriously, though, the Galaxy S can pretty much do it all. And even if none of the Galaxy phones are clearly the best in the world at any one task, they're very good at pretty much everything. Now you can add tablet computers to the family and add Media Hub video (and Music Hub audio) content to Galaxy's bag of tricks. And soon Samsung will also have an App Store online for cell phone/tablet and TV apps (it's available now for Bada phones, but not in the U.S.)

You know, just like Apple. Well, if Apple decides to roll out Apple TV apps someday, that is.

Point is, where Apple used to be a boutique hardware company and Samsung used to be known in the US as a bit of a "generic commodity" consumer electronics company, now both corporations find themselves squarely in the same space. Apple and Samsung are fighting not only for your cell phone contract subsidy, but now also for your tablet computer budget and your entertainment dollars. And soon the fight will spill over into AppLand, as well.

Samsung is already the number one mobile phone maker in the US, with 23.1 percent of the market according to ComScore's latest report. And while ComScore doesn't rank smartphone manufacturers, their latest smartphone platform rankings show Android gaining on Apple's iOS. Add the two stats together and you've got Samsung already with a big chunk of the US featurephone market, now with a growing segment of the US smartphone market thank to their Galaxy Ses and other Android-powered phones, and looking towards the newly hot tablet space and the about to explode online content market. 

Does Samsung have the understanding of the US cultural marketplace to succeed when it comes to selling entertainment? Does Apple have the size to fend off a truly giant foe like Samsung? Or is there room for everyone to prosper so long as they feed our need for connectivity and mobile micro-purchases?