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And then there’s Samsung

If you haven’t read it yet, Kurt Eichenwald’s piece on the Great Samsung—Apple War in Vanity Fair is a MUST READ.

Samsung does not come off very well at all, but to be honest, my impression after reading the story is that the Korean electronics giant should count itself lucky—it could have come off much, much worse.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that because, well, not to put too fine a point on it, but Samsung scares the shit out of me.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Samsung rather unexpectedly apologized to workers who contracted cancer at the company’s semiconductor factories and their surviving family members (read that Businessweek piece in full). Of course, there’s still negotiating to do before Samsung, like, compensates anyone, but I suppose a start’s a start.

(HT to KB, Colin)

Samsung sues newspaper over report on Galaxy 5

Samsung has launched a KRW 300 million lawsuit against Korean IT newspaper The Electronic Times for running an article that questioned whether the company would be able to launch the Galaxy 5 on time:

Last month ET News published claims that Samsung was having trouble producing Galaxy S5 cameras putting the device’s April 11th launch in jeopardy. Samsung states that’s not true. The Korean publication stood by its claims, refusing to change the story when requested by Samsung.

Samsung is now suing for 300 million KRW – about $284,000. The lawsuit was confirmed to TechCrunch by a Samsung representative.

I will say this about the Electronic Times—they aren’t sitting back and taking it. Since Samsung issued its demand for a correction, the paper has been firing back with a flood of articles criticizing Samsung, reports Pressian. So much so that Samsung is accusing the paper of using articles as a weapon. The Electronic Times, meanwhile, is accusing Samsung of using its economic power to “tame” the media.

Now, I have no idea whether the report in the Electronic Times was true or not. That said, Pressian and Media Today note that rather than take its case to the Press Arbitration Commission, the usual practice in cases like this, Samsung chose to launch a lawsuit straight away just two weeks after the store was printed. If true, this might lead some to suspect there’s something else going on here, even if Samsung has legitimate cause for complaint with the Electronic Times.

Now, as somebody who a) likes Samsung products, b) views Samsung as a symbol of Korean drive and ingenuity and therefore wants them to succeed but c) is simultaneously scared shitless of the company because of stuff like this, I’d caution Samsung that in terms of PR, lawsuits of this sort often cause more harm than good. As Media Today notes, Samsung launched the lawsuit because it was worried the Electronic Times’ report would spread and impact sales. Since the lawsuit, however, the foreign press—including FOX News—and big tech bloggers have picked up the story. This is probably NOT the effect Samsung intended. To make matters worse, a story at AppleInsider compares the Korean electronics giant rather unfavorably to the Cupertino Fruit Company, which—assuming the report is true—almost never sues newspapers/blogs despite the countless groundless rumors that accompany the release of just about every iPhone model.

Samsung Selfie-Gate

So, Samsung arranged for some guy who plays for the Red Sux to take a selfie with President Obama. Samsung Tweets photo, which subsequently goes viral. White House gets angry:

The selfie was taken during a visit to the White House this week by the 2013 World Series winners. Ortiz, who has an endorsement deal with Samsung, put the photo on Twitter, and the electronics company re-tweeted the post to its 5.2 million followers.

But turning the event into a promotional exercise for Samsung was apparently not on the White House’s agenda.

“I can say that as a rule, the White House objects to attempts to use the president’s likeness for commercial purposes,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday. “And we certainly object in this case.”

HT to Anonymous Joe and others.

As you probably know, the record-setting Ellen DeGeneres selfie at the Oscars was also a Samsung marketing stunt.

Well, anyways, White House lawyers are now involved. Great.

Say what you will about the Samsung Selfie Strategy, but give credit where credit is do—Samsung’s marketing has come a long, long way.

Samsung’s Newest Anti-litigation Device: the Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

Samsung’s new smartwatch was recently presented in Berlin and, other than using Android, this honking big watch has about a 10-hour battery life (for ~300.00 USD), which makes this a very un-useful device, however, since Samsung has introduced their smartwatch BEFORE Apple’s anticipated watch, this makes this – more so – Samsung’s latest anti-litigation device since no one can accuse Samsung of ripping off Apple’s watch.  Read The Verge’s review of this product too, here.

The future (of anti-litigation products) is now.

Photo: The Verge

Photo: The Verge

The Apple vs. Samsung Chronicles: The US Steps in For the Sake of Innovation

Upon the advice of Michael Froman, the United States trade representative and the president’s adviser on international trade issues, the Obama administration has vetoed a federal commission’s ban that would have forced Apple to stop selling some iPhones and iPads in the United States next week due to an infringement on a Samsung-held patent related to transmission of data over cellular networks.

This is the first time since 1987 an administration has vetoed an international Trade Commission ban.

(Mr. Froman) wrote in his decision issued on Saturday that it was based in part on the “effect on competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers.” . . .  Mr. Froman said his decision did not mean that Samsung was “not entitled to a remedy. On the contrary, the patent owner may continue to pursue its rights through the courts.”

Susan Kohn Ross, an international trade lawyer for Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, said the administration’s veto announced on Saturday will effectively remove a major bargaining chip for Samsung that could have disrupted Apple’s manufacturing facilities for making iPhones and iPads.

As per the comments section on this report file on the NYTimes, one comment summarizes nicely:

Samsung copied Apple products and then tried to use patents in an illegal way to avoid the consequences: if they get away with this, they can force Apple to ignore the copying or else get products banned.

The Samsung patents at issue here are part of a wireless standard — you’re required to use their invention to connect to some networks. In order to be included in the standard, Samsung promised to license them in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. But for Apple, which used wireless chips from companies that had already paid the licensing fees, Samsung demanded enormous additional fees.

This exact issue has already been litigated in several courts around the world, and this practice has never been allowed. In fact, Samsung faces a potential fine of billions of dollars in Europe for doing this.

All of the other big technology companies support Apple in this matter, since allowing what Samsung has done would wreck the whole standards system.

A New York Times Blog article on this is here.

The Republic of Samsung and Roc Nation Want Your Data

jayz_moocher

As the current Edward Snowden Affair demonstrates, governments are willing and able to steal our information and invade our privacy if they feel it suits their needs – no matter what we may think.
Imagine that private companies had the same ability to snoop your phone numbers, phone calls made and mail addresses, in addition to your social media account names. Is this too much intrusion?

Jay-Z is a rapper that has made a deal with Samsung to make his newest album available free three days earlier than its release date to Samsung subscribers through a mobile application. He has done deals in the past with Nokia and Budweiser but this time the pre-release comes with some remarkable data mining on Samsung’s part.

Samsung bought a million downloads of the album, for $5 each and has coupled this to a mobile app that demands much more than the user’s patience, according to one article by Jon Pareles:

It (smartphone app) demands permissions, including reading the phone’s status and identity, which made some users, notably the rapper Killer Mike, suspicious: Does Jay-Z really need to log my calls? It also gathers “accounts,” the e-mail addresses and social-media user names connected to the phone. Those permissions are often part of a typical app package. This one got worse.
When installed, it demanded a working log in to Facebook or Twitter and permission to post on the account. “We would like fans to share the content through social networking sites,” a Jay-Z spokeswoman said by e-mail but the app was more coercive, still. (E-mail to Samsung Mobile’s customer service address for the app was returned as undeliverable throughout Wednesday.)
In the days before the album’s release through Samsung, the app promised to display lyrics — with a catch. “Unlocking” the lyrics required a post on Facebook or Twitter. I used Twitter, where hitting the “Tweet” button brought up a canned message: “I just unlocked a new lyric ‘Crown’ in the JAY Z Magna Carta app. See them first. hxxp://smsng.us/MCHG2 #MagnaCarta.” The message could be altered, but something had to be sent. No post, no lyrics — for every song. Users were forced to post again and again, and frankly, a lyric that is going to show up almost immediately on the Internet isn’t much of a bribe for spamming your friends. . . . If Jay-Z wants to know about my phone calls and e-mail accounts, why doesn’t he join the National Security Agency? Nor is it particularly reassuring, to me anyway, that this example of data collection and forced speech was required by corporations — Samsung and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation rather than the government.

Regarding the unholy confluence of corporate money, data mining and bad rap, this can only get worse, IMHO.

And then there’s Samsung…

CNN tech guy Philip Elmer-DeWitt believes he may have “touched a nerve at Samsung HQ“:

On Saturday, following Samsung Taiwan’s admission that it had paid anonymous posters to trash a competitor’s products on Taiwanese social media sites, I posted a story about the growing suspicion among Apple (AAPL) investors that Samsung was engaged in a similar campaign against Apple — and that it might be affecting the company’s share price.

The post drew more that the usual number of comments. Twenty six hours later, we’re up to 343 messages and counting. Some readers supported the thesis. Some ridiculed it. Some attacked Apple. Some attacked me.

That kind of thing comes with the territory, although not usually in such numbers or with such vehemence. But what happened at about 2 a.m. EST — Sunday afternoon in Seoul, South Korea — was new.

In the space of a few hours, more than a thousand votes were cast on the DISQUS feedback system, voting down any comment remotely anti-Samsung and voting up anything — no matter how inane, in-artful or wrong — that disparaged Apple, the thesis, or me.

Sounds more like the work of Samsung fanboys or patriotic netizens than Samsung itself, but I suppose anything is possible.

Personally, I think Seoul Village might have it right:

Well, that’s a bit disconcerting

I love my Galaxy Note, but I really hope it doesn’t blow up in my pants:

Another Galaxy smartphone has exploded and injured its owner. Bupyeong Fire Station in Incheon on Sunday said a 55-year-old man reported the previous day that his smartphone battery blew up in the pocket of his pants.

The man said he was carrying a Samsung Galaxy Note along with a spare battery in his pocket before they suddenly blew up. He is being treated for second-degree burns to his right thigh.

Korea dominates Super Bowl commercials

Don’t blame me—blame Forbes:

Out of the roughly 37 companies spending a combined $300 million on commercials this Super Bowl Sunday, one country outside of the U.S. stands out: Korea.

Korean firms and even Korean culture are going to be everywhere this Sunday night as the San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

The Samsung one could be worse:

KIA’s were so bad, either:

Then there are Hyundai’s ads, one of which features some band called The Flaming Lips, which I’m to understand is a big deal:

Ah, and then there’s PSY doing a pistachio ad:

What’s this world coming to?

Can Samsung be cooler than Apple?

That’s what the Korea Times wants to know:

Samsung Electronics is the global leader in mobile phones, televisions and computer memory chips.

However, what the Korean company really wants is to be admired, and by successfully injecting creative input into its smart products in recent years, it finally seems to be earning its stripes as an innovator.

The main source of inspiration in the technology industry in recent years has been Apple, the maker of the revolutionary iPhones and iPads and Samsung’s bitter industry rival.

Look, I know I come off as a Samsung fanboy sometimes, but I’m perfectly willing to concede that Apple is the gold standard of cool. I direct you once again to Milo Yiannopoulos:

Not to be rude, but when was the last time you saw a smouldering hottie merrily chatting away into an Android phone? That’s right, you never have. Because giving in to Android is just another way of advertising that you care more about PHP than people.

Hot people do not use Android. If they’re time-rich, cash-poor hipster cuties, they’ll be sporting that ubiquitous symbol of cool, the iPhone. It’s those apps, man. I don’t understand how some people make it past an artisanal card shop without Instagramming it for the boys back at the agency.
[...]
But they’re also utterly aesthetically insensitive, apparently not realising that every Android device ever made is hideously, hideously, hideously fugly. I mean, seriously: what is wrong with these handset manufacturers? It’s like their design brief was: “create a carbuncle”.

That’s what Samsung is up against. Personally, I like how the newer Samsung models look. At any rate, I don’t think they look like carbuncles. And if you’re tech-oriented and like kick-ass displays (like me), you’re going to like Samsung. But even I have to admit they’re nowhere near the user experience my iMac or iPad are. Is this because TouchWiz still leaves a lot to be desired? I don’t know.

LG pushes Apple into 3rd place in US market / Samsung finally recognized for innovation

So, I take it that iPhone 5 isn’t doing so hot:

LG Electronics has pushed Apple into third place in the North American mobile phone market.

LG rose to second place with a 13 percent share in December, overtaking Apple, which had 12 percent, according to Hong Kong market researcher Counterpoint Research.

LG was in second place in North America until the third quarter of 2011, when it ceded the position to Apple after the release of the iPhone 4S.

And to piss a bit more in Apple’s Wheaties, the Boston Consulting Group has named Samsung the world’s third most innovative company behind Apple and Google. And that’s not good for Apple—said Haydn Shaughnessy at Forbes:

Samsung is an innovator and has risen up the BCG rankings by 8 places. Behind the scenes Samsung invests heavily in its engineers’ innovation capabilities. While we’ve all been watching the court case, Samsung has gone from strength to strength. And is now neck and neck with Apple on revenues. 2013 could be the year we look to Korea for who is defining the future of tech.

I stand by what I said earlier—Seoul is the place where the future will happen.

One of the links in that piece is to a Salon story on how Samsung became the world’s biggest tech company—the part about the Note is instructive:

Consider the phablet. Back in 2011, when Samsung first unveiled the Galaxy Note—a 5.3-inch smartphone that was big enough to be a minitablet, hence the ugly portmanteau—the world’s tech pundits couldn’t stifle their giggles. Was it a phone? Was it a tablet? Was it a joke? Smartphone industry blog Boy Genius Report called the Note “the most useless phone I’ve ever used,” adding: “You will look stupid talking on it, people will laugh at you, and you’ll be unhappy if you buy it.” Gizmodo argued that the Note “isn’t just designed poorly—it’s hardly even designed for humans.” I couldn’t resist joining the chorus. With the Note, I wrote, Samsung was hoping to stoke a certain kind of envy in young men all over the world. The firm was banking on the fact that “when you whip a phone as big as the Galaxy Note out of your pants, some dudes will think you’re a god.”

But the joke’s on me and my smart-ass tech journo colleagues. Confounding our predictions, Samsung sold 10 million Notes in 2012, making it one of the most successful smartphone launches in history. Then, in the fall, Samsung launched the Galaxy Note II, an upgraded version with an even larger screen—and it promptly sold 5 million of them, and is on track to sell 20 million over the course of the year. The Note’s success has spawned a spate of copycats, with phablets becoming the hottest new smartphone category. Over at Quartz, Christopher Mims smartly argues that as ridiculous as it looks, the phablet is becoming the computing device of choice in the developing world. “If your budget is limited, why deal with two different upgrade cycles and two different devices, when you can put all of your money into a single device?” he argues. Mims believes that the Note’s success may even force Apple to build a rival phablet.

Since I switched to the Galaxy Note, I can’t even look at an iPhone without giggling. It’s just so puny, like a shriveled appendage or something.

Psy, the new face of Samsung kimchi refrigerators

Samsung announced Friday that they have contracted with Psy and actor-singer Lee Seung-gi to be the new faces of its kimchi refrigerator brand. Ads are set to air later this month.

Psy already banked Gangnam Style into ads for LG Uplus in August.

No word yet as to whether Apple will file suit against Samsung for using a pop star with a rounded body.

And the hits just keep coming

The Korea Times, once again with the Apple “patriotic” ruling schtick, is digging up the old debate that iPhone ripped off Samsung’s F700.

There is some choice irony though. The KT copied Psy, calling the article: “Copycatting ― Apple style.”

Trendy titling aside, the only sources for the piece are two unnamed Samsung executives.

And then there is the Apple memo –with a photo– “obtained by The Korea Times,” sourced with the statement:

Now, what appears to be an internal memo from Apple appears to show it was the other way around — the U.S. firm copying designs from Samsung and LG Electronics.

That certainly appears solid.

The F700/iPhone debate was examined thoroughly -actually by an Apple un-friendly site, The Android Community– last year.  And that piece was very well sourced.

You can read it and decide for yourself here.

I must admit, F700 is a catchy name for a phone –one which I hope was trademarked before someone snatches it up. And there has to be some sort of patent for the extent of solid spin being churned out by unbiased media outlets.

Seriously though, regardless of where you stand on the issue, you have to love this comment posted on The Android Community site:

There’s also the possibility that they both ended up with similar designs through a display of the convergence theory in evolution, or “the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.”

That’s gotta be it.

Gee, I guess Koreans really DO back Samsung

At the WSJ’s Korea Real Time, Evan Ramstad cites poll data that suggests Korea really is “Samsung country.

Watercooler talk, newspaper editorials and Internet postings convinced us last week that South Koreans considered the verdict more than another turn in the long dispute between Apple and Samsung – it’s a slap in South Korea’s face by the United States.

On Monday, a Joong Ang Ilbo columnist wrote that the verdict was “no surprise” and is “the ‘American style’ of doing things when their interests are threatened. It is the yardstick Americans have stuck to in every economic and business battle. Anything that Americans are not tops at is evil and dangerous.”

Whew. We’ll put that down as an extreme expression of the public sentiment. A survey released Monday by Gallup Korea at last anchored the mood with some hard data. The results are sure to please Samsung executives, as they show the vast majority of the 606 South Koreans who were polled have accepted the company’s spin on the outcome.

I have to say, I was a bit surprised the results were as lopsided as they were. Sure, Samsung might be seen by some as a national champion, but there are many who also see it as the epitome of corporate evil—and not without reason. Surely, I thought, there’d be plenty of left-minded Koreans who’d hold their nose and root for the Americans just to see them stick it to Samsung.

Clearly I was wrong.

Of course, this may have nothing to do with nationalism—it could be just that many Koreans recognize the potential harm the verdict has done to consumer choice and IT innovation. Right?

Americans sore losers: JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer

The JoongAng Ilbo’s Sunny Yang lectures Americans about innovation:

To build a country and defend one is not the same work. It is not entirely wrong to claim Americans discovered, invented and created almost every modern cutting-edge technology. They were great builders, but not such good defenders. If they had not been self-indulgent with their pioneering works and endeavored to stay on top of the market with innovations, the latecomers would not have dared to jump into the fray and attempted to outperform them.

But somewhere down the road, American cars and semiconductors became mediocre and failed to appeal to consumers. Turning the blame on competitors for their underperformance has not helped American industry before and won’t now.

One newspaper article questioned if Apple, having lost its drive for innovation, can merely appeal to American patriotism to survive. Without deep self-retrospection and a dedication to innovate, the strategy of relying on past supremacy cannot save the American economy.

To be fair to Yang, if there’s a group of people exceptionally qualified to recognize economic jingoism, it’s Korean journalists.

Still, given the nature of the case, you’d think it wasn’t the American company that lacked the ability to innovate, unless one defines innovation as “shamelessly ripping off your competitors.”

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