Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), seeking to capitalize on its heft in markets from TV sets to tablets, pitched new software tools for developers to make games, sell music and deliver advertising across a range of its devices.
The world’s biggest maker of TVs and smartphones opened its first global developers conference yesterday in San Francisco, looking to attract exclusive content and applications. Samsung, based in Suwon, South Korea, told 1,300 attendees it will support Unity, a popular video-game development platform, and unveiled software that lets its tablets and smartphones exchange information through gestures, wireless links and digital pens.
The three-day conference, like similar events hosted by Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Google Inc., aims to raise Samsung’s profile among developers by highlighting the company’s strengths as a global electronics manufacturer. The tools are aimed at bridging differences in operating systems among devices, and easing other obstacles to creating software and services.
“There are half a billion connected devices today, yet none are connected to each other,” Samsung President Hong Won-Pyo said in an interview. “We foster an ecosystem of multi-screen apps and user experiences to improve the way people do the things they love, in turn, and create new business opportunities for developers.”
Samsung yesterday released a kit for multiscreen developers to make products, such as games and photo-sharing apps, that are compatible with a broader range of devices, including televisions.
The company’s hardware presents a challenge for app developers because Samsung uses different operating systems across product categories. The new kits can sit on top of multiple systems to enable developers to design one app for many products, according to Curtis Sasaki, senior vice president of cloud service innovation and media solutions at Samsung.
“We want to create services that go back and forth in a very easy way,” Sasaki said in an phone interview. “Our goal is to set the stage for innovation and give developers a lot of ideas they can take with them.”
A keynote demonstration showed users listening to online radio on a Samsung Galaxy S phone, and then shifting it to a Samsung television in the home. Another presentation showed handwriting recognition software on a Galaxy Note 3 tablet. It was used to find an address on Trulia.com, the real estate website.
The company showed off a Bluetooth game controller that can dock with mobile devices, and suggested developers using Unity Technologies’ video-game engine, which works across devices, would be able to make games for tablets, phones and even televisions.
While Samsung is the leader in smartphone sales, it’s been criticized for failing to add features that people use, said Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies Inc.
“They’re trying to create proprietary value on their hardware,” said Bajarin, based in San Jose, California. “That’s going to be goal No. 1 for them. That’s challenging because to do that takes more than putting innovative features in a product that not everyone uses.”
This year, Samsung added its first phone with a curved screen to its roster, introduced its $299 Galaxy Gear smartwatch and registered designs for spectacles to challenge Google Glass in the wearable devices market. In July, it bought Boxee Inc., a startup that makes video-streaming apps for phones and tablets, as well as a Web-connected TV set-top box.
“Everything we do is about putting the most innovative technology and software in people’s hands,” said Hong, Samsung’s president. “It was also important to continue growing our presence in Silicon Valley, the hotbed of technology innovation.”
The company posted record third-quarter earnings last week, helped by sales of cheaper Galaxy smartphones in emerging markets. The mobile unit, responsible for about two-thirds of Samsung’s earnings, reported third-quarter operating profit of 6.7 trillion won ($6.3 billion), up from 5.63 trillion won a year earlier.
Profit at its consumer-electronics division, which includes the TV and home-appliance businesses, declined as television manufacturers reel from sluggish demand along with price competition.
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