Samsung has been most successful when it's made products specifically to fill gaps in Apple's lineup. When you couldn't get an iPhone or Verizon, Samsung made sure you could get a not-an-iPhone on Verizon. When you couldn't get an iPad that was smaller than 9.7-inches or an iPhone that was bigger than 4-inches, Samsung made sure you could get not-an-iPad at 7-inches and not-an-iPhone at up to 6. They were never as polished as what Apple eventually released, but they existed and people bought them. In some cases, in droves.
When Apple started making those products, however, and there was no longer a need for not-an-iPhone or not-an-iPad, Samsung faltered. While the Apple Watch is coming this April and the Apple Car might follow one day, the Apple television doesn't seem to be leaving the labs any time soon. So, maybe that's an opportunity for Samsung to make a not-Apple television?
Yes, Samsung already makes "televisions", but they're not making televisions. They're doing what everyone else is doing, gunking up their gadgets and muddling their marketing. They're also making a lot of mistakes.
Last week there were two separate controversies swirling around Samsung's "television" products. The first revolved around the admirably candid yet terrifying language used in their "always listening" voice-control system:
Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.
Samsung updated the language it uses and posted it on Samsung Tomorrow, but by then a second controversy had surfaced. This one involved the injection of advertising into private video streams. Samsung told The Guardian:
We are aware of a situation that has caused some Smart TV users in Australia to experience programme interruption in the form of an advertisement. This seems to be caused by an error, and we are currently conducting a full and thorough investigation into the cause as our top priority. This situation has so far been reported only in Australia. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience experienced by our customers.
Televisions are a hugely competitive space, often with razor-thin margins. The pressure to extract more money from customers is what leads to things like data harvesting, partnerships, and ad insertion models. Samsung is hardly alone in that regard. And that's the problem — Not only is Samsung playing the same game as every other major manufacturer on the planet, they're stumbling while doing it. So, why not try something else?
Apple's customers are among the best customers in the world. We care more about value than cost. We have iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, and Macs, and will soon have Apple Watches. What we don't have is an Apple television. We don't have a simple, terrific panel to enjoy all our content on.
Instead of microphones or ad intercepts, instead of curves or Tizen-tie-ins, imagine Samsung just made a line of premium televisions that did nothing more nor less than provide a fantastic display and a slew of HDMI ports.
Samsung's strength has never been software or ecosystems. It's been panels and components. If they avoided the former and doubled down on the latter, they could take advantage of a gap in Apple's current product line and make something extremely appealing to Apple's customers.
I don't think they'd ever do it, but I know I'd buy it if they did.
In case you missed it:
- Our ongoing redesign is ongoing! We updated slide shows last time, now we're updating articles like this. As always, your thoughts are appreciated.
- Apple Car. Get used to seeing those words.
- Our experts column was terrific again this week, with Steve Aquino reminding us that Accessibility really is for everyone. Likewise Maddy Myers' backpage on iOS gaming culture.
- Up next: Jessie Char and Kevin Michaluk!
- I can confirm Serenity, Ally, Peter, and Georgia have all, indeed, trolled me in iMessage just like this.
From around the web:
- Google's Project Zero is getting more pragmatic. Looks like a good compromise.
- David Carr passed away this week. I'll miss his work tremendously.
- Kara Swisher interviewed U.S. President Obama about cyber security. I guess personal privacy didn't get much emphasis because Tim Cook had nailed it in his speech?
- Now that Apple being doomed is boring again, Google being doomed seems to be the new narrative: Don't be Google, Google, Mighty Now, but Not Forever.
- Speaking of Google, credit where its due for doing this Android security Q&A.