Mike Isaac

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Setting Up Shop in the Valley and NYC, Samsung Aims to Boost Its Software Side

David_eun_diveOver the past year, Samsung’s quiet Silicon Valley presence has grown from a whisper to a shout, as the consumer electronics behemoth turns the home turf of rivals like Apple and Google into a beachhead for its U.S. operations.

Samsung obviously knows how to do hardware. What it needs to do better is tackle what’s actually on your phone.

Hence, Samsung’s Open Innovation Center, announced Monday at our D: Dive Into Media conference, in a conversation with Samsung EVP David Eun, the man charged with quarterbacking the effort.

“It’s no secret that you have to get the hardware and the software right,” Eun said. “It’s not just about putting software onto hardware. It’s about a thoughtful integration between the two.”

The Center’s strategy is four-pronged. There’s the accelerator arm, which gives small startup teams access to important Samsung plans and people (not to mention providing a steady paycheck). The M&A team aims to leap on promising talent early on, while the venture arm will make small, early-stage investments in the startups Samsung sees as the “next big things.” And the partnerships team will work with all other startups who want to work with Samsung, just not necessarily for Samsung.

Look at it this way. Yes, Apple’s rise to power in the smartphone and tablet industry was built on the shoulders of creating well-designed consumer hardware. But that’s only half the story. Consumers want a robust ecosystem of software to run on the devices they’ve just purchased. And Samsung — arguably the company best positioned to take on Apple’s strong grip on the mobile hardware market — needs to up its software game to do it.

It’s hard to do that when your company is headquartered thousands of miles away. Thus: Setting up shop in the two largest stateside tech hubs.

By no means is it Samsung’s first effort in bringing the South Korean company’s presence to the Valley. As Kara Swisher reported previously, we first heard rumblings of Samsung’s efforts last year. Then came the Silicon Valley R&D center and a strategy and innovation center in Menlo Park, Calif. That was followed by another sales and R&D campus north of downtown San Jose, and a strategy and innovation center on Menlo Park’s Sand Hill Road. All this in addition to Samsung’s long-standing Silicon Valley operations for chips, hard drives and other components.

For now, the two innovation centers are set up in temporary digs in the Valley and New York City. Expect more permanent homes in downtown Palo Alto and New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, come this June. In the meantime, interested developers can hit up Samsung directly to apply.

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