Propelling continued OS and app innovation while sustaining cross-platform relevance doesn’t happen without a strong developer program. Treat developers right and they’ll increase customer loyalty, become viral marketers of a company’s brand, and make themselves and the platform they develop on lots and lots of money.
For Samsung, a company looking to expand its software presence, reduce Android-dependence and unify its range of hardware devices, developers are key.
Samsung is keenly aware of how crucial a role developers will play in the future of its Galaxy devices, and its vision for converging its TVs, tablets and smartphones in a complete living-room experience for the user. Over the past several months, the company has debuted a lineup of new SDKs, touted the Samsung Developer Program, and organized the first annual Samsung DevCon in San Francisco.
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“We believe that the next big innovations, the ones that permanently and positively alter how we work and play, will be largely shaped by developers,” said Curtis Sasaki, Samsung senior vice president and head of its Media Solutions Center of America. “We are creating new and better SDKs and tools for developers, and providing the technical support developers need to create the best apps.”
One of the drivers behind Samsung DevCon according to Sasaki, was the ability to plug the possibilities of multiscreen development.
“The timing turned out to be ideal as there were several new SDKs coming together around the same time,” he said. “We had just come off the release of the new Galaxy Note 3 smartphone and Galaxy Gear [smart watch], and we were hearing interest from developers. We also saw a unique opportunity to get developers excited about the new multiscreen opportunity, one that enables a new way to enjoy second and third screen experiences while watching television.”
A smaller Samsung Developer Day, in London in November, followed as Samsung extended its efforts globally to attract developers.
“We wanted to hear from developers and get feedback, input and ideas so that we are always improving the way we work with them,” Sasaki said.
Extending the couch
The biggest draw Samsung is using to court developers is the chance to design a new chain of interactions within its device ecosystem, connecting TVs, smartphones and tablets with added features like the S Pen stylus. Sasaki explained that the Multiscreen SDK and Smart TV SDKs are tools for developers to redesign the way millions of consumers interact with and entertain in their living rooms.
“The way content is consumed on mobile and TV can become more streamlined, providing more information about favorite shows or new ways of interacting with other viewers in real-time and virtually ‘extending the couch,’” said Sasaki.
To do that, Samsung announced five new or updated SDKs at the conference:
Pulling away from Android
It’s no secret that Samsung doesn’t like relying on Google’s Android OS. An important facet of the company’s developer push is stressing Android app creation specifically for its own devices, and the benefits of developing for the Galaxy suite as opposed to Google and Nexus devices.
Before Samsung DevCon, the company outright encouraged developers to create apps that are “more than just Android.” When asked about the advantages of Android development on Galaxy devices instead of Nexus, Sasaki pointed to apps such as eBay, MyFitnessPal, Snapchat and RunKeeper already present on the Galaxy Gear smartwatch.
On top of multiscreen opportunities, Samsung is making a point of showing how much it’s willing to cater to developers with its developer program and in-app revenue distribution. The company has committed to giving developers 80% of in-app purchase revenues, up from the previous 70% share, through April 30, 2014.
Sasaki also talked up the in-person service and support Samsung is offering developers at its “innovation centers,” like the Samsung Strategy Innovation Center (SSIC) in Menlo Park, Calif., and the Media Solutions Center America (MSCA) in San Jose. The SSIC marks the first time the company has moved substantial R&D operations out of South Korea.
“[The centers are] embracing the energy, creativity and innovation culture of Silicon Valley,” he said. “MSCA serves as a hub for developers who are creating new consumer experiences. It is committed to helping developers participate in the multiscreen opportunity, and reach consumers through its millions of screens worldwide.”
There is one other, largely quiet front on which Samsung is trying to break away from Android: Tizen OS. The open-source operating system developed by Intel and Samsung has hit delay after delay in terms of rolling out Samsung devices, but its underlying presence is strong.
Sasaki declined to comment on how Tizen fits into Samsung’s future software plans, but talk of quiet Tizen pitches to Android developers echoed throughout Samsung DevCon. No official presentations made mention of Tizen, but many attendees noticed the phrase popping up in developer discussions, pitches by Samsung partners, and incentives offered to app makers.
Samsung has made its developer intentions quite clear. The SDKs, the developer conference and programs, and the in-app revenues are all part of an uphill battle to create more apps tailored to the unique features of its devices.
“Developers are motivated by innovation and creating applications and services that change peoples lives,” Sasaki said. “Our ultimate goal is to create experiences that open doors to new ideas.”