A bit late from Mobile World Congress, but no less interesting is our interview with Samsung’s UK & Ireland General Manager Derek Williamson (pictured). He talks about the Samsung line up for 2009, their plans for an Android phone and why the new Omnia isn’t running on Windows Mobile…
OMIO: The original Samsung Tocco seemed to provide the best of both worlds, a high end experience on a bargain handset, and was a top seller of 2008 as a consequence. Was that your intention?
The Tocco is a beautiful device. The Tocco is still there, still performing well, and you’ll see our flagship product continuing the name in the UK as the Tocco Ultra. I think that’s recognition there is still a lot of momentum in Tocco, and both products will sit comfortably together in the marketplace.
By the very naming of it, the Samsung Tocco Ultra is the enhanced version, over and above the original. So the huge benefits of new ways of interaction, the full touch support will all be seen as a good way to appeal that handset to a wider part of the market.
OMIO: How are you aiming to market these two devices, will they have any cross-promotion?
We are aiming to ride of the momentum of the original Tocco, our above-the-line and channel marketing has recently been refreshed. We are looking to begin with the Tocco Ultra on the second or third week of March. That will become the new, very visible face of Samsung.
OMIO: What are your plans for the Omnia HD?
That’s an even higher premium model in terms of its positioning. One of the things about the Samsung Omnia HD is that it lends itself very well to online advertising. We’ll be looking to have a strong campaign utilising that medium. If you think about the target audience we’re after with that sort of device, that’s where they will be.
OMIO: With the gadget geek, fashionista and music fan catered for with the Omnia HD, Tocco Ultra and Beat DJ respectively, is Samsung actively going for a divergent model as opposed to the ‘all-in-one’ device favoured by some other manufacturers?
One of the things we are deliberately doing and have been for the last couple of months, is a strong segmentation between our handsets. This way we get a better understanding of the market in terms of end consumers, and then create our portfolio around that.
There are four segments in our range, style which we believe goes hand in hand with Samsung as a brand.
Then, there is multimedia in handsets like the Pixon, infotainment phones like the Omnia HD which is also closely aligned with our business sector.
So we have strong handsets across our portfolio which cater to all segments of the marketplace.
OMIO: When is the Omnia HD coming to the UK?
We’re not announcing specific dates just yet, but it is on out roadmap, and based on the presence here, it won’t be too long after this.
OMIO: We noticed the Omnia HD running on Symbian, as opposed to the Windows Mobile powered original. Why is that?
Samsung has been very clear from the outset about working with different operating systems. We have our own proprietary one, and have worked with Symbian, Windows, Java, and Linux. This is just a natural progression, and this device simply lends itself better to Symbian.
We are continuing to work with Windows Mobile.
OMIO: And Android?
All of us have been looking into Android. We in there, working closely with Google and building the Android platform. Second half of the year, we will have an Android handset.
OMIO: A bit of a cliché, but we have to ask it. App Store?
Yes, we’re upgrading our current Symbian download portal to include both Windows Mobile and Java, in terms of collaboration we want to make it as wide and open as possible for developers to create programs on. We want to be open and inclusive in that respect.
OMIO: You are currently in a strong position thanks to working with Symbian, as Nokia are also investing heavily in the platform. Will you actively work together to provide the best apps through to Symbian users?
The openness we have regarding is indicative of our commitment to getting Symbian. I think you need to have that collaboration to get the richest variety of applications out to consumers.
OMIO: Have you been able to hear any of the other announcements of MWC? What has interested you?
I think if you look at people like Microsoft, they are giving a strong message to say they are there for the world of mobile, bringing their head guy along to reinforce that is a clear sign. That’s probably the most interesting, I’ll catch up with the rest later!
OMIO: With regards to the Blue Earth, I thought a solar powered phone might be best suited for the emerging market…
It’s a recognition that we all have a responsibility in terms of doing what we can, using recycled products, and this is a very visible sign by us to make this available in developed countries, to allow consumers to make that choice.
I think there is an overlap in terms of understanding and harnessing solar power for a handset, this is a real conscious effort for us to take our devices in a greener direction.
Samsung goes hand in hand with innovation, and the Blue Earth is our innovation in that direction.
OMIO: Will Samsung’s eastern innovations in terms of cutting edge handsets, projector phones and the like, ever have a place in the Western portfolio?
Certainly. Just after I started with Samsung, I was in the underground in Korea, and saw lots of people streaming live television to their mobile phones, via those little aerials on the side. On the flight back to the UK, I saw lots of people viewing pre-loaded TV content on their handsets. So the demand is there, the way people use their mobile has changed so much.
We’re at a stage where everything has come together in terms of networks, devices and content, defining so much more than just talk and text on a phone. People are using it as their sole device for all entertainment, and in the last year alone the development in consumer expectations has been phenomenal. Our handsets will continue to innovate to match that.
OMIO: With the Samsung Omnia HD able to wireless projecting HD content onto your Samsung TV and the like, do you think this symbiotic relationship between different Samsung products will continue?
The great thing about Samsung is that we have the benefit of everything under one roof, a clear strategy moving forward is the convergence of different technologies and products under the Samsung banner, to give a more rounded solution.
The sharing of content, so what I see on my TV is on my laptop is on my mobile, is where we want to go.
We are seeing a ‘pull’ rather than having to ‘push’ this transition, as consumers who are familiar with and enjoy Samsung notebooks or televisions have an interest in what we are doing in the mobile market. Certainly, the appetite in the UK is for convergent devices, and we will provide them.
OMIO: What message would you like us to take away from Mobile World Congress?
The width of our portfolio, and the strength of our touch devices. We’ve had a great touch line up with the Tocco and Omnia, and have an even stronger line up for 2009!
OMIO: Thank you.