Samsung’s Windows-based Galaxy Books, unveiled today at Mobile World Congress, point to a critical weakness in the company’s multiple-OS strategy.
The company uses Windows 10 in PCs, Android in smartphones, and Tizen across wearables and smart appliances. This has led to a lack of coherence among Samsung devices, in contrast to the near-seamless product integration that has fueled Apple’s success as the world’s most valued company.
The specific issues with the Galaxy Books are relatively small, but are nevertheless symptoms of the larger problem: walls among devices and an inconsistent user experience across the company’s product line. The lack of a broad app ecosystem for Samsung devices has not helped.
Samsung has taken a siloed approach to product development, said Werner Goertz, lead Samsung analyst at Gartner. The strategy is deeply rooted in the company’s flawed organizational structure, in which divisions often compete instead of cooperating, producing products that don’t work the same way.
to bring artificial intelligence to its devices, but it hasn’t yet been deployed.
Samsung’s commitment to Google Assistant leaves Viv out in the cold. Samsung could use Viv for intelligent search and discovery on devices, which is something Google Assistant does not really do, said Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison Investment Research, in a December research note.
Meanwhile, Samsung is rumored to be developing a voice assistant technology called Bixby, which could go into the upcoming Galaxy S8 smartphone. If it comes to fruition, it’s the kind of technology that could put Samsung on the right path, said Bob O’Donnell, principal analyst at Technalysis Research.
There are various ways the company could get its product lines to work well with each other, O’Donnell said.
One solution would be to build a sort of “meta-OS” sitting on top of Samsung’s Android, Windows and Tizen devices that becomes a center of interaction, O’Donnell said. Such an OS could be cloud-based.
A voice-controlled virtual assistant that works with its various product lines would be another unifying technology, O’Donnell said. “They are working on it and busy with it,” O’Donnell said.
Other companies, like Lenovo, have a multi-OS strategy involving Windows and Android, but Samsung sells a considerably wider range of devices and appliances. If Samsung can get its act together, the company has the scale to successfully combat Apple and other competitors in the mobile market, analysts say. Samsung makes great PCs, but it doesn’t rank in the top five PC makers worldwide.
Samsung business units, such as the semiconductor and display divisions, operate independently. Nevertheless, Samsung needs to offer a unifying vision for its products, delivering common functionality and an integrated experience that appeals to customers.
Until then, its product strategy will remain flawed.
“Will it be fixable in the short term? I don’t think so,” Goertz said. In the long run, customer pressure may force Samsung to come up with a cohesive strategy.