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Samsung matters, HP doesn’t, Microsoft doubtful

Samsung dominated CES Las Vegas
Samsung dominated CES Las Vegas

Want to know where technology is heading over the next few years?

Then keep a close eye on events at Apple, Google and Samsung. You should also have dials for Facebook and Amazon on your dashboard.

HP and Intel clearly no longer matter.

Despite a ripper 2012 with a slew of improvements and great products, we need to put Microsoft to one side. One thing is clear, Microsoft strategy is mainly reactive. And it isn’t obvious where the company is heading.

Samsung ascendancy

If you had asked me 18 months ago which companies drive the tech sector,  Samsung wouldn’t have been on my list.

Today the South Korean hardware giant sits at the top of the tree along with Apple and Google. Those three companies are making the decisions shaping the tools and devices you’ll use over the coming years.

One notch down and slightly to the side sit Facebook and Amazon.

HP is nowhere. That company is now a technology-taker. Stuck in a world of low-margin commodity products, HP is going through yet another meaningless restructure.

Microsoft? Ah, Microsoft. I’ll save my thoughts on this company for another post.

Smartphones, tablets

Samsung, Apple and Google own the smartphone market. The three brands share at least 90 percent of sales. Samsung is New Zealand’s leading phone brand.

Things aren’t much different in tablets. While they are all important in the PC business, that sector faces declining sales and importance. This is strike one against Microsoft.

One interesting question that’ll be answered in 2013 is whether Samsung moves to become more Apple-like. That’s been on the cards for some time. The hardware giant is the only company that has consistently challenged iPhones and iPads in terms of technology.

While the two are miles apart in tablet sales, the sales gap in smartphones is close. According to ZDNet, Samsung sells more phones in Europe while Apple is number one in the US. And overall, Samsung sells more smartphones. According to researcher Strategy Analytics, Samsung will sell 290 million smartphones in 2013. The research forecasts iPhone sales will reach 180 million.

Wither now Android?

Until now Samsung’s phone and tablets have mainly been based on Android, although there is a Windows Phone 8 smartphone.

The company says it will sell handsets based on the Tizen operating system.

This is a move to loosen its dependence on Android. Presumably it could extend this to tablets as well.

Samsung could use Tizen to build a vertical technology stack like Apple which includes software, hardware and services like cloud computing and app stores.

That decision has implications for Google. Samsung accounts for as many as half of all Android devices. It is one of a handful of households name making Android kit and quite possibly the only brand selling Android phones at a profit.

Without Samsung Android is a mess.This gives the company interesting options. It could nail Google to the floor or it could develop what would in-effect be its own operating system and technology stack.

The CES evidence

Samsung underlined its new leadership role by dominating this month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company’s press conference drew the biggest audience of journalists and its keynote including a guest appearance from Bill Clinton was also a show highlight. Reports from CES say the company’s booth was the most crowded and most impressive.

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