The biggest threat to Samsung’s gadget empire

Samsung Future Gadget Innovation

Samsung’s rise to become one of the world’s true smartphone powerhouses has been one of the biggest stories in tech over the past couple of years but the company isn’t resting on its laurels. A New York Times profile of the Korean gadget titan reveals that high-level executives within the company are full of anxiety about what its next move will be now that it believes its smartphone profit margins have likely peaked.

The big challenge for Samsung, the Times says, is to go from being a follower to being a leader in terms of gadget innovation. The Galaxy Gear and the Galaxy Round, which are Samsung’s latest two attempts to break new ground in terms of form factors, have been met with negative reviews so far and have reportedly only deepened the company’s anxiety about what its “next big thing” will be.

This fear over its future is what’s driving Samsung to invest so much in developing Tizen, its homemade smartphone platform that it hopes will lessen its dependence on Google’s Android operating system. In this way, Samsung is looking to follow the business model that Apple has used and that Microsoft is now trying to emulate with its own line of devices: It wants tight integration of hardware and software and it doesn’t want to rely on any outside party to produce the devices it thinks will sell the best.

“When someone buys our handset, we want them to be interested in the whole experience,” Hong Won-pyo, president of Samsung’s Media Solution Center, told the Times. “Combining excellent hardware innovation and software innovation — when you combine them neatly, the value will be maximized and the consumer will appreciate our products because we integrated them.”

All of which sounds intriguing except that Tizen faces an enormous challenge in catching up to the app ecosystems offered by iOS, Android and now even Windows Phone. App developers are already weary enough about potentially developing apps for three different platforms — will they really want to make apps for a fourth OS as well?

Of course, much like Microsoft, Samsung has an ungodly amount of cash and it isn’t afraid to throw it around to get what it wants. If there’s one company that has any shot of successfully pushing a new mobile platform this late in the game, it’s Samsung.

In the meantime, though, we can expect to see Samsung’s persistent fear of getting left behind to push it to release an even bigger variety of different Android-based devices than the nine versions of the Galaxy S4 that it’s released this year alone.

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