This is going to sound kind of mean, but I can't help it. When Samsung launched its latest Galaxy tablets and the Galaxy Gear smart watch, they really should have led with someone a little more hip than J.K. Shin.
There he stood on stage in Berlin, holding up the Galaxy Note 3 and announcing proudly, "I believe it will become a new fashion icon around the world." Maybe, but Shin, president of Samsung mobile communications, probably isn't the best person to sport such a status symbol. It's too easy to contrast him with the late Steve Jobs, who said almost the exact same things about the iMac and later the iPhone. Because he was Steve Jobs--charismatic, confident and cool--we believed him. It could have helped Galaxy to invite a few young(ish) app developers to show off some games or tools specifically designed with the Galaxy Note 3 in mind.
This is only one example of where Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) competitors have tripped up in the days leading to Apple's Sept. 10 conference. A few days earlier, when Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced it was buying Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) smartphone division, the underlying message seemed to be that there is some life left in the Windows Phone OS. As the integration of those two firms plays itself out, the market will be better convinced if the combined entity is able to prove itself more effective in courting developers the way Apple has these past five years.
Then there is Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which somehow managed to squeeze in news about Android 4.4. Though you could argue that iOS 7 received a lot of harsh criticism for its aesthetic changes, that's probably better than being discussed primarily because of a code name, Kit Kat, which recalls a famous chocolate bar brand. Instead, Google missed an opportunity to detail improvements in Kit Kat that will ease testing and performance or address the fragmentation issues that plague not only developers but consumers of its apps. Apple will likely not make this mistake if it announces the iPhone 5S on Sept. 10 as expected.
This circling of Apple's rivals the week before its fall launch was obviously intended to capture consumer and industry attention before it was completely diverted by the iPhone 5S, or whatever Apple chooses to announce. It probably won't work--it's going to be all iPhone 5S, all the time for at least the next week or so. That buzz, however, will largely be confined to the consumers, analysts and other industry observers. For developers, the news from Microsoft, Google and Samsung is an opportunity to consider their cross-platform strategies. How could Kit Kat open up avenues for new kinds of apps, or better apps? Will Samsung potentially offer great support or promotion of apps for its Galaxy Gear--better than Apple, which probably won't have a smart watch until next year? Is there any potential advantage in developing first for Windows Phone--which I doubt anyone does--once Microsoft's OS and the Nokia devices are completely connected at the hip?
As much as they've tried to steal Apple's thunder, these competitors aren't doing enough to marshal support from app developers with their tactical moves. But there's nothing stopping developers from taking the initiative and figuring out the answers to these questions for themselves. --Shane