​Samsung’s quest to reinvent the TV in the age of convergence

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Samsung’s Park with the latest QLED TV model. The company believes rivals in the so-called OLED camp will eventually follow their technology.

Eleven years ago, a year before Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone, Samsung Electronics swept past then arch-rival Sony to become number one in liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs. At the time, the company was known more in the business world as an enterprise memory chip supplier, an underappreciated commodity both then and now. In the mass market, it was making its name known to consumers with its slider feature phones, challenging the hegemonies of Nokia and Motorola.

It was a symbolic and energizing moment for the South Korean tech giant. It spurred its growth and gave the company the confidence that is now integral to its DNA. Today, Samsung is the only rival to Apple in smartphones and its memory chip unit has grown to a massive cash generator.

In TVs it still holds the world’s top position. Samsung LCD TVs, according to Statista, had a market share of 21.6 percent in 2016, near double that of LG Electronics’ 11.9 percent. Samsung is also the largest vendor of smart TVs. Samsung’s Visual Display (VD) business, the company’s own TV unit, is proud of that achievement even today, despite being overshadowed by the higher margins of Samsung phones and semiconductors. But in contrast to Sony’s 35-year reign in CRT TVs, arguably a lot more has happened in the past decade in technology and society.

Of course, there is the smartphone, which changed the way content is consumed content and shifted consumer expectations; the continuing evolution of flat-panel displays, with Samsung’s move to QLED and the formation of the B2B Display unit; artificial intelligence (AI); big data and the cloud; and new services emerging from the “abundance of data” that are changing what devices can do when grouped together. For Samsung, global leadership brought with it new objectives and new anxieties.

Today, Samsung believes that with changing consumer expectations, crisper image-rendering displays, and new data-intensive services, we are at the dawn of a paradigm shift in the definition of a TV. The company’s VD executives shared with ZDNet the challenges they face as the world’s largest innovation vendor.

‘OLED is a dead-end; QLED is the future’

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