By Prof. Tung Bui – Matson Navigation Co-Chair of Global Business, Director of the APEC study Center and Director of the Vietnam Executive MBA, University of Hawaii.
|Head of the IT and Mobile and Communication Division at Samsung, JK Shin presents a smartphone Galaxy S5 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, on February 24, 2014. Photo by AFP.|
Since the introduction of the Galaxy S5 by Samsung in a presentation style reminiscent of Steve Jobs’ at the Mobile World Congress in Spain last Monday, the media is abuzz about what is cool and what is missing in the new release. Samsung’s latest flagship phone has the same look of its predecessor S4, with a 5.1-inch display and 16-megapixel camera and a personal trainer. These two features alone would likely threaten the markets for the digital pocket cameras and personal trainer appliances. Yet, like with the release of Apple’s iPhone 5S, Samsung fans are already disappointed that the new S5 does not have other features that they expect from a technology leader — to include but not limited to, NFC (near field communications), wireless charging, X-ray vision. Innovation today never seems to be enough in the eyes of increasingly sophisticated consumers.
Granted that it is impossible to meet all fans’ expectations, Samsung continues to impress the technology and business worlds with its ability to innovate. According to the IFI, Samsung is the second, only after IBM, for the number of U.S. Patents in 2013. Samsung registered 4,676 patents, while Google and Apple had 1,851 and 1,775 respectively. Undoubtedly, investing in R&D has propelled an unknown company created in 1938 with 30,000 won as a trade exporter selling dried Korean fish and vegetable to China to a respected technology global leader.
More importantly, Samsung with other key Korean conglomerates (chaebols) such as LG and SK has helped creating an innovation hub to help Korea gain its competitiveness and national brands.
Vietnam does not have a globally recognized local partners yet, but it has a number of large companies with strong potential to create innovation hubs — VNPT, Viettel, FPT. They have the necessary ingredients to help promote Vietnam’s innovation: preferred place to work for young, talented and entrepreneurial university graduates, superior national resources to invest in R&D, tight business connection with government authorities.
The Global Innovation Index 2013 report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) lists Korea top 18 in its global innovation index ranking. Vietnam is 76, slightly ahead of Indonesia (85) and the Philippines (90), and behind Thailand (57). It takes time build momentum in the innovation race. Perhaps there is a possible short cut for Vietnam: build a distributed and open network for Vietnamese innovation. There has been an increasing number of Vietnamese overseas scientists and business entrepreneurs who are successful in their endeavors. A recent success story is the work by technology entrepreneurs Tan Le and Nam Do, two Vietnamese-Australians who co-founded Emotiv Systems (emotive.com) to produce brain-computer interfaces. A virtual hub for Vietnamese innovation linking domestic technology-savvy companies with Vietnamese overseas scientists and entrepreneurs could be a set up to steadfastly nurture a culture of innovation and deploying newly created Vietnamese products to the global markets.
Can the Galaxy S5 help sustain the successful of Samsung Galaxy line? It is early to tell. The success of this technological wonder depends much on the ecosystem that it depends on — telephone and Internet carriers, adoption and use by existing and potential users, apps ability taking advantages of new features. It also depends on the cut-throat competition. For now, it is safe to acknowledge that the new release of the S5 has consolidated Samsung’s reputation as a global technology leader, and a center of wealth creation through innovation linking its domestic Korean partners to the global economy.
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