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Smart devices, mobile Internet-based content shaping consumer electronics: Samsung HK COO

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Alex Chung, Chief Operating Officer of Samsung Electronics Hong Kong

Gadgets that are used for communication, to share information and to access content on the Web will continue to drive the industry.

After the immense success of smart phones and tablets, leading companies such as Samsung are now promoting intelligent TVs with voice and gesture control, face recognition, and Web-based applications and content.

The concept of an intelligent and connected home is also extending to other household appliances such as refrigerators.

In an interview with Global Sources, Alex Chung, Chief Operating Officer of Samsung Electronics Hong Kong talks about current and future trends in the consumer electronics industry.

Below are excerpts of the discussion.

What are the top trends currently driving consumer electronics?

Smart device is one of the top trends currently. Smart phones and tablets and other connectivity type of products are very hot, growing rapidly with strong momentum.

Even devices like smart camera and smart TV are becoming popular because these are linked with internet-based or mobile internet-based content. Social media is very important for consumers to communicate with each other and share photos or their location. So I think if a product has accessible Wi-Fi applications or smart content, it will drive consumer electronics.

The Galaxy Note has been very successful with over 5 million units sold since its launch. Do you think ‘phablets’ will be the shape of things to come in the mobile device market? Why has Galaxy Note been so popular?

Galaxy Note has been very successful in the world, not just in Hong Kong. As I mentioned, consumers are currently communicating a lot through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. People also want to see videos and listen to music on the go. Galaxy Note meets this requirement because of its 5.3 inch AMOLED screen that delivers high quality content. It is especially popular with women, many of whom carry it in their hand bags.

But even more interesting is the S Pen, which enables customers to create their own entertainment. Even though consumers are communicating through Facebook or different forums, the S Pen allows them to create customized and personalized content.

Is Galaxy Note affecting sales of your mobile phones?

This is a special device and it is not affecting our mobile phone business. Some people are using Galaxy Note like a mini tablet for searching and gaming applications, while others are treating it like a strong device for mobile communication. So we can target different customer segments. We cannot say this is a replacement of a mobile phone and it also does not replace tablets. We have created a separate and a new kind of application device.

Samsung recently launched an internet-enabled LCD refrigerator with apps. What do you think is the future of intelligent and connected home appliances? And are consumers ready for the intelligent-home concept today?

When similar appliances were launched in the past, communication or smart platforms were not mature enough. Consumers were not communicating through Facebook or other forums, and searching the internet as much. But currently this is being done almost everyday.

This is just the initial stage and it is early to say if this concept can be extended to other appliances. But this is a good trial because currently there is a very strong Internet environment, especially mobile Internet. And there is a lot of content and many applications available, so that is why this concept could pick up.

Secondly, are consumers ready? In terms of platform, everyone says consumers are ready. Consumer behavior today is driven by Internet-based communication. For example, nowadays without your phone or without checking your Facebook, you cannot sleep. It is a matter of whether consumers want to extend this connectivity to more occasions, for example, in the toilet or in the kitchen. But this is very useful. For example, you can communicate with your friend to show you some recipes, or order groceries for your home through the Internet. Or maybe you want to get updated information from the stock market while working in the kitchen.

So the platform is ready and consumers are also ready to use smart devices such mobile phone and even smart TV. But for refrigerators, it will also depend on the content and applications. It will take some time to create some new and exciting applications and content.

What has been the response for your Internet refrigerator from consumers so far?

The product is still limited to the South Korea and US markets, and has not been launched in Hong Kong yet. And this is still the early stages, especially because this is a unique product in terms of price and positioning. We can have more conclusive results after maybe six to nine months.

What do you think are the prospects of technologies such as gesture, voice and eye control, and which devices do you see using them in the near future?

Currently, smart TVs have a lot of communication content through the Internet and also many applications. When we showcased our smart TV with gesture and voice control at major trade shows recently, many people thought it was very interesting, but this is still a value added for the basic product. The technology can be further expanded to home PCs, tablets or other smart devices.

Samsung's smart TV with gesture and voice control is a new product so it will take a few more months to gauge consumer response. But we are getting good feedback from the industry and media.

Google is working on an augmented reality device. What do you think is the future of augmented reality? Which applications or devices do you see using this technology?

I cannot comment on the Google product, but such devices are becoming popular because consumers today are communicating more in their daily lives.

In the future, there will be more interesting devices because consumers do not want to communicate only on one occasion. They want to communicate all the time and in all situations.

Actually, such technology is not complicated to develop, but it depends on whether or not consumers are ready. This is still the trial and error stage, so we cannot say whether there will be commercialization or mass penetration of these devices.

China manufacturers of consumer electronic devices are moving up the value chain and releasing ODM products that are more cost-effective. Is this affecting global sales of branded consumer electronic products such as those from Samsung, especially in developing countries?

These products can be our competitors, but the companies can also be our business partners because they use Samsung’s technology and electronic components.

Also, sometimes we need more companies to cultivate and develop a market, such as smart phone. The market and industry cannot expand if there is just one brand.

It is true that these players sometimes create competitive pricing that might affect branded products. But we cater to separate market segments. Branded products for example, cater to the midrange and high end. These are consumers seeking good quality, more applications and more importantly, innovative technology. Samsung has a strong position in the branded products market, and more players will only help expand the market and industry.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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