An Era-Defining Product

Sang-Hun Choe, The New York Times:

Although the name Samsung is synonymous with sophistication among South Koreans, the company has never created a product so innovative that it has defined an era in consumer culture, like the Walkman or the iPhone.

Bad habits are hard to break. Some are impossible. Do something over and over and it becomes a part of you. Aristotle:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

If you happen to be a company bad habits become a part of the company’s culture. Samsung has bad habits and the worst habit is laziness: Waiting until some other company comes out with an era-defining product and then carbon copying it. A copying habit does not necessarily result in failure. On the contrary, a copying habit can result in spectacular success. Samsung is the very best at it and is very successful. And despite its massive loss against Apple in court I expect Samsung to continue being very successful. Why?

I’ll use the 80/20 rule here. Eighty percent of the world are people who don’t give a damn about pursuing perfection. Eighty percent of us want something that’s good enough for a cheap enough price so we can get things done at a good enough level. Eighty percent of the world wants something like a Samsung Galaxy S III: good enough hardware, good enough software, good enough services, good enough experience. As long as Samsung continues to target this massive good enough crowd, it will continue to do be insanely successful.

Samsung’s goal is not developing an era-defining smartphone, or any gadget for that matter. Samsung’s goal is making profits. Just look at the homes, cars, jewelry, clothes, and lifestyles of Samsung’s top executives and it becomes crystal clear: profit is Samsung’s god, not perfection. The Samsung we know today will never create a product so innovative that it will define an era in consumer culture, because that would cause too much pain: breaking of old habits, forming new ones, and most importantly turning away from its god of profit who so far has been munificent.