Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Samsung to Developers: Come Play for the Biggest Team (And the One With TVs)

Given how big of a deal Samsung phones, tablets and TVs are, it’s strange that the company’s first developer conference was held only today. Tardy though it may be on the developer-wooing front, Samsung claims it has an edge on its rivals and their more mature platform efforts.

“We have tremendous potential for upside, because we’re just getting started on this,” said Gregory Lee, the president of Samsung Telecommunications America. “It’s not like we’ve been doing it for a long time.”

Plus, there’s a secret weapon. Samsung would like its leadership in smart TVs to help pull along its mobile platform — which is already massive among users, but not yet developers.

Samsung developer head Curtis Sasaki, as seen from the SDC stage as part of a demo of Twitter for Android supporting Samsung pens to draw on top of tweeted photos.

Samsung developer head Curtis Sasaki, as seen from the SDC stage, as part of a demo of Twitter for Android supporting Samsung pens to draw on top of tweeted photos.

Lee said Samsung was hosting an unexpectedly large audience of 1,300 at the first-ever Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco, as the company introduced five new and improved software development kits for its various devices.

The bigger number, of course, is active Samsung devices. The company shipped 250 million devices in the past year, it said, quoting IDC. That doesn’t include feature phones, and it marks 119 percent growth from the previous year. Samsung is now shipping one million mobile devices per day.

“That’s a lot of devices in the hands of consumers, and these consumers are looking for the best applications,” said Curtis Sasaki, who leads Samsung developer efforts and had previously put in time at other players including BlackBerry, General Magic and Apple.

While it’s hard to argue with Samsung’s massive market share, the company has been criticized for layering its own substandard software on top of Android mobile devices. Fostering a developer ecosystem would be a way out of that problem.

But why would developers pledge allegiance to Samsung versus someone else — for instance, Google’s underlying Android OS?

TVs. The trump card Samsung hopes it’s holding is that the next big platform is going to be smart TVs. That’s a category Samsung has been No. 1 in worldwide since 2007.

Samsung currently sells smart TVs at a rate of two per second, according to Sasaki. That’s 53 million TVs sold in the past year.

The new Samsung SDKs make available tools that will help developers enhance their apps on Samsung devices and that help apps on various Samsung devices work better together.

For instance, Android apps running on Samsung phones and tablets will be able to easily accept handwritten content using Samsung pens. A Twitter demo showed how this will work on a new Twitter app for Android tablets that supports drawing on top of tweeted pictures. There are also tools for app monetization via ads and a wallet that now supports online vouchers with geofencing.

Samsung is hoping it can bring all this to scale very quickly. Already, its in-app messaging tool, ChatOn, has 100 million users worldwide, working across platforms including Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Web browsers.

That’s important, because unlike some other players, most notably Apple, Samsung is making software that acknowledges a world that includes devices it doesn’t make. Citing Nielsen stats, Samsung’s TV execs said that, in the U.S., there are now more than six devices per home, up from 5.3 just three months ago.

In the living room, the new Samsung multiscreen SDK, which launches Nov. 12, will support phone input from various devices, including iPhones for Samsung’s smart TVs. Users can overlay Web pages on top of live television and drop live game stats on top of a sports broadcast. And Samsung is helping app developers like Pandora do things like throw the music they’re playing on their phones to the large screen when they walk into a room. Samsung also said it was partnering with the popular Unity Technology for a multiscreen gaming SDK to play games on TVs.

Of course, Samsung’s tools are meant to help phones from various platforms work only with Samsung TVs. The openness won’t necessarily go both ways.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work