Monday, August 27, 2012

CSM: Samsung's loss to Apple puts innovation in spotlight

I'm always a bit dissatisfied with these proclamations that Korea (and Japan and Taiwan) are copiers who should be innovators, especially if the corollary is that Americans and Europeans are innovators and not copiers. 

In reality, both sides seem to be a mixture of both, even if Korea in the past did indeed rise from the ashes by copying things that were already successful. 

Hyundai is successful because... is building a better mousetrap innovation or imitation? I'm not so sure Samsung has failed at innovating either. producing a rectangular handheld computer (which is what a smartphone is) is hardly the mark of imitation. 

Moreover, look at successful companies in America. Microsoft's OS is a copy of Apples (I'm old enough to recall the Mac lovers' slogan, "Windows95 = Macintosh 87") and Apple itself got its graphical user interface from somewhere else. 

I'm biased a bit. When I see a product form I like, I want it to stick around. I'm in the market for replacements for my three-year-old MacBook Pro, my four-year-old iMac, and my two-year-old iPhone4. But frankly, I want their successors to look pretty much the way they do, but with different and more powerful innards. All three aluminum/glass structures are, in my opinion, works of art, and if Samsung or Nokia makes a rectangular shaped device that also has a while glass front or whatever, I don't really see the problem. 

Again, how many different ways can you make a rectangular wafer of an electronic device? 

From the CSM:

Samsung Electronics, the loser in a milestone patent infringement case brought by Apple, was ordered Friday to pay $1.05 billion for violating Apple's patents on I-phone and I-pad technology. Samsung is vowing, however, to fight to overturn the verdict of the nine-person jury in a federal court in Cupertino, Calif., near Apple's global headquarters.

Whatever the final outcome, the case may force Samsung to focus more intensively on innovation, according to analysts here.

Samsung should "stop fighting it," says James Rooney, chairman and CEO of the Seoul advisory firm Market Force. "It's time to stop copying others. Samsung would be far better advised not to fight it. To continue fighting it is to give themselves a bad name."

Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee, the head of a sprawling empire that accounts for 20 percent of South Korea's economy, has periodically called on his army of executives and engineers to "shift from copying to innovation."

Intrinsic in Korea's rise as an industrial power from the devastation of the Korean War has been the drive to imitate whatever worked for major economies, notably Japan and the United States.

In recent years, however, Korea has been bursting with creativity in fields ranging from motor vehicles to music as epitomized in K-Pop groups with global followings. "There is a huge capacity to create," says Mr. Rooney, "They've been schooled so much in the other way of doing things. Copying has been the backbone of Korea's economic growth since the 1960s."


  1. The Japanese (and lately the Koreans) did for automobiles what the British did for rock music, and the Chinese are now doing for planned obsolescence: took an archetypal American invention and kicked it up to a whole higher league.

    So far as copying goes, one can only sigh about how different history would have been in this past century, if the Japanese had chosen to copy British parliamentary democracy, rather than Prussian militarism, in their drive to modernize.

  2. I keep recalling a friend of mine who worked for a web consulting firm. His boss said that Samsung wanted a new website. My friend asked what style they wanted. The boss showed him a screen grab of an Apple website.

    "They want this."

    "They want something like this?"

    "No. They want this."

    1. Well, that doesn't mean that the Galaxy is a copy of the iPad. I have been to Samsung's site and it is different from Apple's. I think Samsung makes better looking tablets personally and so do other companies like HTC, etc. The iPad is a very minimalist design, which is not really American, but Japanese/Asian if you think about it. Sony was the first company in the world to design AND popularize electronics in that style and Apple can't deny that it and other American companies were influenced by that trend. If you look at companies like GE, Whirlpool, etc., their design does not compare to ones like Sony, Samsung, etc.


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