Let me say that I welcome Dong-Jin Koh to lead Samsung Mobile. Samsung has a huge opportunity ahead of itself, and I have some strong opinions on how they should exploit this opportunity with a refined technology strategy. It may seem inappropriate that a CEO of a 60-person Silicon Valley tech company would offer advice to the leader of a multi-billion-dollar and highly successful organization, but I have some strong credentials including experience as a management consultant advising multi-billion-dollar organizations, a degree from one of the world’s top business schools, more than 20 years of experience running successful technology companies, substantive innovation experience in mobile phones, and experience working with Samsung in dozens of mobile products including flagship Galaxy S, Note, and Gear lines.
Here is my humble advise to Samsung Mobile:
- Use software to differentiate – There are many conflicting reports about whether there will be increased software focus under your leadership. Some say things won’t change at all. I say make things change with software and technology investments. Hardware is very difficult to differentiate, and can too easily be copied. Software can make generic hardware work easier and better, and will allow a stronger competitive position against the high-end Apple products and the low-end Chinese phones.
- Samsung software should improve the user experience – Using software to differentiate doesn’t mean adding a bunch of apps. My Galaxy S phones already have too many apps. The market needs easier-to-use, safer, faster, more convenient solutions, and if you can differentiate from Android, you’ll have something your competitors don’t.
- Lower hardware costs – Investing in software can differentiate your products without the high cost of hardware. For example, the cameras and microphone already on the phone can be used for high-accuracy biometrics. Why spend the extra $2 to $4 for fingerprint readers? To compete at the low end, costs must be reduced, and to afford the high-end marketing, margins need to be better.
- Aggressively explore technology partnerships – Samsung has a big advantage over companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Samsung actually has third-party technology suppliers. The big U.S. companies have the “not-invented-here” attitude. They want to either acquire the company that makes it or build it in house, and that can slow the innovation process relative to licensing. Samsung can license, getting first to market with new technology approaches, and in doing so stay ahead of Apple and smaller competitors.
- Treat technology suppliers differently than hardware – Hardware tends to be fairly generic, and having multiple suppliers that regularly get beat up on price makes sense. Software technology is different as software can be more unique and differentiated, and software doesn’t necessarily add to the cost. As such, a more strategic and partner-oriented relationship could make sense for software suppliers, with a longer-term focus, mutual success models, and well-aligned goals.
- Use Samsung’s data to make the best UX! – Deep learning approaches have proven to be the most successful and accurate means to implement key user-interface technologies like vision and speech recognition. It’s all about the user experience and interface, and combining voice, vision, touch, and sensors into sensory functions is the right way to improve the user experience. Samsung has a wealth of usage and voice data that can be deployed through machine learning techniques to make vastly superior products. Take advantage of your market share to make your products better.
Todd Mozer is the CEO of Sensory. He holds over a dozen patents in speech technology and has been involved in previous startups that reached IPO or were acquired by public companies. Todd holds an MBA from Stanford University, and has technical experience in machine learning, semiconductors, speech recognition, computer vision, and embedded software.