Samsung Electronics Co. will hold a very Apple-like event to unveil its latest smartphone in New York today. The Korean company will take the wraps off the Galaxy S4 at Radio City Music Hall and stream the event live on video screens in Times Square.
Samsung has no Steve Jobs, however. Instead, the person hosting the festivities will be J.K. Shin, the low-key head of the mobile division who started at the company in 1984.
Shin can’t compare with Jobs, the Apple Inc. (AAPL) chief executive who set the standard for product introductions, dazzling audiences with crisp presentations honed over weeks of rehearsals. The Samsung executive, who favors blue blazers and tan slacks in contrast to Jobs’s jeans and black mock turtlenecks, tends to let devices take the spotlight. Still, any lack of charisma on Shin’s part isn’t hurting Samsung, which has surged past Apple in global smartphone sales.
“Over the last four or five years, Samsung has done a great job in stealth mode without a Jobs-like figure to help them,” said Tim Bajarin, president of technology consulting firm Creative Strategies in Campbell, California. “Without a lot of fanfare, they’ve just made great advances and taken a strong position in the market.”
Shin, 57, introduced the previous version of the flagship phone, the Galaxy S3, in London last year during a press event that featured the London Metropolitan Orchestra and soaring floor-to-ceiling video displays.
Shin, for whom English isn’t his first language, pulled the Galaxy S3 out his coat pocket during the presentation, saying in an understated manner, “This is the moment the world has been waiting for.”
“Steve Jobs is the benchmark,” said Carmine Gallo, a communications coach and author of “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.” “He elevated the art of presentations in a way to take your breath away, inspire, educate, entertain and even make people feel better.”
Shin lacks the polish of Jobs, who “would practice relentlessly” and once rehearsed on stage for “four hours straight to get an element of a presentation just right,” he said.
Still, Samsung is well-versed in the heavy production work that goes into product debuts, and Shin isn’t hindered by a language barrier, he said. The engineer has focused on research and development at Samsung, which he joined after attending South Korea’s private Kwangwoon University.
“Charisma isn’t about language, it’s about emotional connections,” Gallo said.
Shin, who oversees all aspects of the Galaxy products including design, is also keenly aware of the threat posed by Cupertino, California-based Apple -- which took an early lead in smartphones after its 2007 introduction of the iPhone. The popularity of iPhone’s user interface caused Samsung to suffer a “crisis of design,” according to a February 2010 internal memo unearthed during court proceedings last year.
“For a business leader in the U.S., charisma is a requirement,” said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics in Dedham, Massachusetts. “In South Korea, it’s not even on the list, but execution is. Execution is high on the list.”
By 2012, Samsung surpassed Apple to become the world’s largest smartphone maker. Samsung had 29 percent of global smartphone unit shipments in the fourth quarter, compared with 21 percent for Apple, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Seeking to steal thunder from his company’s main competitor in smartphones, Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller, downplayed the market-share gains of Samsung and other devices running Google Inc.’s Android mobile software. Apple lures four times as many Android smartphone owners to buy iPhones as it loses to rivals, he said.
“Our products are innovative, and customers are buying them,” Schiller said in an interview yesterday. Apple’s shares rose 1.1 percent to $432.87 at 10:01 a.m. in New York.
Unlike Jobs, who combined product design finesse with a talent for pitch-perfect marketing, Shin is an effective behind- the-scenes manager, said Richard Doherty, principal at technology consulting firm Envisioneering Group.
Shin “sees the world through a product lens in a product- focused design environment,” Doherty said. “Clearly, there is no other Steve Jobs, not even at Apple these days.”