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09:46 AM

Samsung CEO: Software Key To Device Wars

New CEO of Samsung says the company needs to customize its software better if it wants to stay ahead of competitors such as Apple.

Speaking directly to the multitude of employees over which he now presides, Kwon Oh-hyun, Samsung Electronics' new CEO, charged them with improving the experience that consumers have with its devices. The best way to do this, he said, is via software customization.

"A particular focus must be given to serving new customer experience and value by strengthening soft capabilities in software, user experience, design, and solutions," said Kwon, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Samsung, has in the course of the last year, become the world's number one purveyor of cellphones and smartphones. The company makes a multitude of devices, ranging from tablets, to televisions, media players, laptop computers, and more. Kwon didn't specifically call out Samsung's smartphone business as one area it needs to focus on, but clearly it's among the Korean firm's priorities.

Samsung announced the Galaxy S III in early May. Looking at the spec sheet alone, it shares many features and functions with its direct competitors. Items such as the processor, screen, wireless radio support, and so on are on the leading edge of tech--but you can get devices with the same spec sheet from other manufacturers.

[ Find out why a Samsung-branded social network is a terrible idea. See Samsung Leaves Facebook Alone, Averts Disaster. ]

More than the specs, the GSIII's software appears to be the defining characteristic. Samsung clearly spent a lot of time working on the new version of its TouchWiz user interface overlay, which complements Android 4.0. Samsung said that it sought to bring a human element to this smartphone.

For example, the GSIII uses the front camera to keep the phone's display awake. The smartphone can tell when the user is looking at the screen, and will keep the display awake as long as the user is looking at it. In fact, the GSIII has a number of facial recognition features, such as the ability to instantly populate contact cards with photos based on images captured with the device and tags.

The phone will provide a summary of updates that occurred while it was at rest for an extended period of time. It has notifications that sound like water drops and other "natural" sounds.

Samsung gave the Galaxy S III a Siri-clone called S Voice, which responds to vocalized requests and queries, not unlike the way Siri does on the iPhone 4S.

Samsung also announced a huge expansion of its Music Hub, and will provide a service that matches Apple's iTunes Match: Samsung Galaxy S III owners can upload their music to the Hub, which will recognize and match songs so they can be streamed across different devices.

Using the GSIII as an example, Samsung has already proven its intent to focus on software to define its products. But what can Samsung do with its other devices? It would be natural for the company to offer similar feature sets to new versions of its Galaxy Tab tablets, but it would make less sense to add them to television sets or laptops.

I agree with Mr. Kwon's statements that software innovation is where the real battle is being fought. How Samsung will address its software and user experience in future products will be interesting to watch.

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