What is it like visiting Samsung's Headquarters in Korea on "Apple day?"
Shel Israel and I were asked to speak to two audiences at Samsung today of its top engineers and executives about our book and findings "Age of Context." Our slides from our presentation are here: http://www.slideshare.net/Scobleizer/age-of-context-september-2014
So, what did I learn?
1. Everyone we met asked us very intelligent and deep questions, some of which I struggled to answer. That tells me they are an inquisitive, smart, culture, which matches the products they've shipped to date.
2. They are proud of their culture of "get it done." They are very hard working and are proud of that culture. Our guide said he had to go back to work on Friday afternoon. This culture felt a lot harder working than some of the other big companies I've been involved in, which explains how every year at CES they come out with stunning new screens and devices.
3. They know they have many problems, particularly in PR relations with the rest of the world that they are working on. Language and culture is a barrier that I only observed from the outside before today. Many of their workers and execs don't speak English as their first language, which makes it tough for both of us to understand and share with each other. I think that explains a lot about how Samsung is perceived in America and other Western countries.
They are working on innovation and getting ahead of the rest of the market. They know that the only way to gain more customers is to bring out new products that thrill users. We urged the execs to be far more visible on Facebook and Twitter, but I sense that many struggle with English and see writing in public as a risk.
4. They are working on many sensor programs to do things that will study our health in deep detail (and do other things, as well, we had lengthy discussions about health and fashion). I don't know what they want discussed in public about future product plans, so I'll leave that out, but I'm quite amazed at some of the things they are working on. I bet that Apple and Google are working on many of the same things. The future is going to have an endless supply of innovations in wearable devices here.
5. They are just as freaked about by our talk as all other audiences are. In other words, they are just as scared of privacy intrusions as the rest of the world is (even while admitting that products of the future will need to collect and use a TON of data to serve us). I feel the challenge of product developers at all these companies who are struggling to figure out how to provide new utility without consequences from the collection of a LOT of very personal data.
By the way, I never was derided for pulling out my iPhone and shooting photos. Several execs showed me their iPhones (all were carrying various Samsung models too). This tells me they are very focused on Apple as a formidable competitor. I would expect that if I got the same tour at Apple that execs there would carry around Samsung phones to know what the competitor's strengths and weaknesses are. (My friend Andy Grignon, who worked for Steve Jobs, told me that is indeed the case, at Apple they all carried various competitor's phones to understand what made them good and bad).
In its museum you see a TON of innovations from elsewhere in the world (I loved seeing the old American TVs and radios, washing machines, and other devices that I grew up with). I really like this culture of understanding that much of the world's technological innovation and great product design came from other places. I can just see being a young engineer and walking around the museum and understanding the world's tech history and just how hard it is to build products that break through and thrill users.
It is also interesting how visiting a company's headquarters changes your perspective. I can see that consumers will continue to win as this great company continues to battle not just other giants in Asia, like LG and Sony, but Apple and other companies.
As I unpack my new iPhone 6 Plus on Saturday after I get home, I'll be thinking about the pressure that Samsung puts on Apple to continuously improve too. As I walk around Korea and I see so many large Samsung phones being used in the street I know that Apple is playing catchup in many ways to Samsung.
This competition makes us all winners, no matter which side of the fence we are on.
Thank you to the hundreds of Samsung employees who we met today. You have inspired me in a big way.