AT A HECTIC SPECTACLE in New York on Thursday evening, Samsung finally took the wraps off its Galaxy S4 smartphone, hoping to wow the crowd and watching world with its amazing innovations.
While the Galaxy S4 has some interesting additions to the software, and no fewer than eight cores in its processor, Samsung also seemed keen to tout the device as an ideal enterprise smartphone, with the firm's head of mobile J K Shin referring to its business benefits early in the event.
Samsung is sensible to take this line. The bring your own device (BYOD) craze has taken the corporate world by storm. Any right-minded smartphone provider will soon realise, if they haven't already, that to get the big bucks, the best marketing strategy is to promote your device as super-cool and much coveted to get individuals to want it, while at the same time outlining how secure and reliable it is to allay any IT department concerns.
So when the IT team starts getting bombarded with requests from executives to upgrade them to the shiny smartphone of the moment, or staff start trying to connect their work email accounts to their mobile phones, the IT manager can sit back and relax, knowing that the phone maker has already done their job for them.
Samsung had the ideal opportunity on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall to reveal any intentions it might be harbouring about becoming the obvious BYOD choice. And the firm is certainly in a good position to play this card. The Galaxy S4 will be the first device to feature Samsung's new Knox technology, which sounds like an intelligent and useful update to the Android mobile operating system to address the BYOD security quandary.
Employees are happy as they get to use the Galaxy S4 as their work device, with all the cool bits like Smart Pause and Dual Camera. And IT teams are happy since the device has plenty of security features built in to stop data leaks and malware. Better still, the Galaxy S4 can be split into two distinct areas, one for personal use and one for work use only, with the latter locking down all the corporate apps and data on the phone.
But at the event Samsung decided to put all of its focus on the typical consumer features, which are actually not that much different from what’s available on pretty much every other smartphone on the market. It devoted just a miniscule amount of time to Knox throughout the rest of the event. When it issued the Galaxy S4 press release, the firm's only reference to business was buried at the very bottom in the specifications section, reading, "Samsung Knox (B2B only)".
In fact, the whole theme of the launch event, with the hammy acting, alcoholic desperate housewives and 10-year old precocious brat all screaming forced entertainment and fun, with not a whiff of professionalism in sight.
Compare this to the Apple approach. The iPhone doesn’t have a Knox-style feature to help sell it into the enterprise. But when Apple launches a new phone, the focus is on the technology, which is outlined in great detail by a series of enthusiastic but appropriate spokespeople. It might not be the most exciting approach, but it leaves people with nothing to talk about but the product itself, rather than reliving the hectic spectacle at Radio City Music Hall.
For technology professionals, the Apple approach is perfect, giving the overriding sense of a professional outfit that can be trusted for serious business tasks. Whereas I doubt many IT workers watching the Galaxy S4 launch came away with the impression that Samsung is the perfect mobile choice for their organisation. Ironic really, considering the work the Korean manufacturer has done with Knox to make the Galaxy S4 a good fit for business.
Perhaps over the coming few weeks and months Samsung will throw its marketing and advertising clout behind the Galaxy S4 for business. Maybe the Galaxy S4 television and magazine ad campaigns will focus on Knox, and Samsung executives might become a regular feature at corporate technology trade shows, talking about how well suited the Galaxy S4 is for the enterprise.
But this all seems unlikely. The Galaxy S4 launch event was a one-time opportunity, when Samsung had all the eyes of the world upon it. If it wanted to push a business angle, that would have been the time to do it.
No doubt the Galaxy S4 will prove to be another smartphone success for the firm in the consumer market. But the half-hearted references to corporate use will likely ring hollow to the technology professionals tasked with deciding which smartphones to roll out next across the organisation.
Samsung might have good technical specifications on paper, but business buyers want a professional organisation to work with, and Apple makes a better impression of being that choice, based on Thursday's performance. µ