20
Mar 13

That was fast: Samsung buzz falls to earth

Wow, things really do happen faster in the world of Samsung.

Apple enjoyed a good 15 years of ever-increasing buzz before it finally took a hit. Samsung’s buzz has suffered a wound in just a fraction of that time.

What a difference a launch can make.

Samsung was on a tremendous winning streak over the last year or so. It way outspent Apple on marketing, effectively hitting the company while it was down. It had a monster hit with the Galaxy S III. It was hailed by many as “the new leader in innovation.” And it was all set to be anointed the king of smartphones with an epic unveiling of the Galaxy S4 at Radio City Music Hall last week.

But the next day, there wasn’t a lot of anointing going on. In fact, Samsung was taking hits on several levels.

First was the event itself. Even the Samsung fans were cringing when it was over. It felt like a third-world version of the Oscars, with not-so-funny comedy and a generous helping of sexism tossed in for effect.

Anyone who thought Apple went overboard during product launches (magical! revolutionary!) had to do some serious recalibration.

The fact is, Apple’s buzz has always started with the product, not a PR scheme. It gets its devices into the hands of key reviewers. It’s the countless journalists, bloggers and commenters who actually generate the buzz — not Apple.

Somehow I doubt that Steve ever considered a symphony orchestra.

And then there is the Galaxy S4 itself.

Remember how Apple proved it was no longer an innovator by unveiling iPhone 5? All it had was a slightly bigger screen, faster processor, better camera and numerous software enhancements. What a disappointment.

So here comes the all-new Galaxy S4 — with a slightly bigger screen, faster processor, better camera and numerous software enhancements.

Good lord, can’t anyone innovate anymore?

In a way, this is all Apple’s fault. (Remember, everything is Apple’s fault.) Through a series of genuine revolutions, Apple taught us that new products are the jaw-droppers. Incremental improvements are for losers.

Unfortunately, most critics haven’t read the record correctly. It’s the 1.0 product that has always generated the real excitement. Subsequent versions offer up some cool features, but are rarely considered “revolutionary.”

Siri, Retina display, FaceTime … none of those things have ever matched the initial buzz of the original iPhone. That’s just life in the technology biz.

So when Samsung announced a major event to unveil an all-new killer version of the iPhone killer it was already selling by the ton, and does everything in its power to jack up the expectations — it was really just asking for trouble. At least when it comes to the buzz factor.

Welcome to the club, Samsung. Better get crackin’ on something truly revolutionary. I hear HTC has been nosing around about the availability of Radio City.

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  • dr.no

    HTC already can’t get enough components to ship their iPhone Killer.

    Samsung great success is it is being talked about as rival to Apple.
    Any new product Apple will come out with Samsung will have a clone
    of it in 6 months.

    All Apple can do is ridicule. All the market that Apple doesn’t serve
    don’t really care whether they have a copy of the original.
    Google is almost lost in this melee.

  • Greg

    Anybody involved with putting this thing on should be fired, including the CEO. I think it clearly shows that Samsung doesn’t know how to innovate. They should have tried this event out in Poughkeepsie first. Looked like something that Ballmer would be all over.

  • Woochifer

    Disagree with one point — the 1.0 product does not always generate excitement. Remember the collective yawn from the jaded tech press when Jobs unveiled the iPad? “Just a big iPod touch — EPIC FAIL!”

  • ksegall

    Well, yes and no. That was the reaction to the original announcement. But from the day the product shipped, when people actually got their hands on it, it was a mega-hit. Every update since has made it better, but the big buzz came from 1.0.

  • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer matthew

    Just enough is more.

    That’s something Apple has mostly internalized (until _very_ recently, IMHO), and Samsung seems never to have considered.

    Whether it’s cultural, whether they followed really bad advice, whatever, Samsung’s bizarre GS4 Launch was a garish feast, leaving nothing to the imagination.

  • tz

    I am not the most worldly person out there. That so I got some Asian cultural vibes from the snippets I viewed of the presentation in radio city.
    Am I onto something here? Please anybody knows more than I do about Asia let me know.

  • Chris Castagnola

    All good points. Unfortunately, Samsung has momentum right now on the streets. Most average people didn’t see the launch. But they are seeing some pretty good ads on TV. And that’s making people “think different” about Samsung. And Apple.

  • ksegall

    You make a good point. We too often fail to consider that most people don’t pay nearly as much attention to such things as we technology people do. And clearly there is still momentum on the streets, as you say.

    That said, the “influencers” do reach a lot of people who wouldn’t ordinarily notice — and quite a few of those responded with muted enthusiasm or worse. So I think the negative reviews have let some of the air out of Samsung’s balloon. Whether or not that will have any impact on sales, we will soon find out.

  • http://twitter.com/qka qka

    I didn’t waste my time watching the video; all I know is the opinions reported by others. That said, Asian culture can be very sexist when when viewed from a modern American perspective. Working in Hong Kong in the 90s, I remember the shock of my female colleagues when they encountered it.

  • xiphi
  • http://www.facebook.com/kichinosuke.okubo Kichinosuke Okubo

    Great to know someone like you are here on the web. I feel that Apple is not doing well at all in terms of innovation. What a impact you and Jobs did in those years. I feel very sad that lost the spark in culturally ingrained technology merging with high tech and popular art. As an Asian, at the same time, we carry this heritage of “copy cat.” I wonder how much Samsung can go further with that.

  • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer matthew

    It’s worth following up a month later to point out the nature of the early Galaxy S4 reviews. In a word, oversold. In a big, big way.

    Despite this, and other facts in Apple’s favor, the reality distortion field surrounding Apple-related tech and financial journalism remains impenetrable.

    They have us believe that Apple’s getting its ass handed to it by a company that only really competes on Apple’s level in one product category. One. Premium smartphones. And the Galaxy S series does not consistently sell more units than the iPhone.

    Would love to know when the pendulum will swing.

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  • Hugo928000

    Great teaser on S4… The mystery box always works great when nicely executed. I guess they saw JJ Abrams on TED ! True they killed it with the Musical :-) Speaking about JJ the Acer Star R7 Trek Teaser is cool too.

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