Samsung Is Deeply Invested in the Future of Printing
BLI Tours Samsung’s R&D Facilities in Suwon and Seoul, South Korea
With all the turmoil and recent changes in the document imaging industry—such as declining page volumes, corporate giants splitting and major OEMs up for sale—you might begin to worry if anyone is still committed to the future of the printing industry. Samsung Electronics, for one, says the company is indeed in this space for the long haul. I was invited on an exclusive tour with a small group of fellow analysts to Suwon and Seoul, South Korea to witness first-hand Samsung’s long-term commitment to, and deep investment in, the printing industry.
Samsung by the Numbers
While Samsung doesn’t (yet) have the market share of its competitors, the company is hungry for growth and generally only invests in an area if they think they can achieve market leadership. The proof? The company is a market leader in nearly every other segment of its business areas, boasting the number-one spot in televisions, smartphones, wearables, memory (DRAM, NAND, SSD), LFD (large format displays) and refrigerators.
Founded in 1969, Samsung is a technology giant, with more than 319,208 employees in 84 countries. Innovation is a key focus for the company, as evidenced by the 36 R&D and 6 Design Center locations, as well as the number of patents registered in the US (4,952 patents in 2014 and more than 7,500 in 2015). Another key indicator is their annual investment of $14 billion and 70,398 employees in R&D alone. In addition, Samsung was ranked as the number-one most sustainable technology company in the world on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 2015 and ranks as 7th on the 2015 Interbrand Best Global Brands list. To put this in perspective, the next closest document imaging competitor is HP at number 18, followed by Canon at number 40, while Xerox sits at number 70 on the list.
Digital City & Samsung Innovation Museum in Suwon
One of Samsung’s main operation sites is known as Digital City in Suwon, which is quite impressive. The campus consists of 390 acres of office space, housing almost 35,000 Samsung employees in four office towers that are up to 38 stories high; there are also 131 smaller buildings with more labs, offices, recreational facilities, and a guesthouse for visiting researchers.
Eddie Castillo, Director of Sales Marketing for Samsung Electronics America’s Printer & Imaging Solutions Division, hosted the group and took us on a tour of Digital City. Some of the company’s executives shared the Samsung story, detailing how the company strives to design and build the most innovative products possible. For example, for its A3 MFPs Samsung performs extensive internal testing including more than 78 operational tests, 109 long-term reliability tests, 76 image quality tests and 20 environmental tests. One of those tests is an RF interference test, which is performed in specially designed anechoic chamber that limits/eliminates outside radio wave interference from other devices. This lets the engineers test new products against specific frequencies to ensure they are not affected by RF interference from other devices nearby.
In Suwon, Castillo also showed some prototype products, while other members of the team demonstrated several solutions that integrate with the Smart UX Center. Samsung’s designers and engineers are always thinking outside the box, working tirelessly to develop the next big thing in printing.
Later in the afternoon, we were treated to a tour of the Samsung Innovation Museum in Suwon. Opened in 2014, it provides a detailed history of the company’s efforts developing a wide range of products, from washing machines and refrigerators to mobile phones, TVs and printers. With all the focus on other products, it’s easy to forget that Samsung has been invested in printing for decades, as evidenced by one of the items on display. While not available to customers until 1996, Samsung developed its first color laser printer, the SLB-3108H, in 1991.
New R&D Site in Seoul
While in Korea, I was also invited to tour Samsung’s newest design center in Seoul. Opened only four months ago, the 15.9-acre campus houses 3,500+ designers, engineers and research professionals assigned to Samsung’s printing division. The Samsung team also shared some insight on the company’s design philosophy. Their “human centered design” revolves around innovation and usability. By color-coding their printers and MFPs to “divide” the user interface and engine, the designers create an interface designed for human interaction while the engine is designed for functionality and paper storage. After discussing the current design philosophy, the designers showed us some of their more recent prototype products to cement the message that the team is always trying to innovate and continues to develop concepts for future.
Samsung’s Roadmap for Success
While in Seoul, several high-level executives took time to discuss Samsung’s strategy and vision moving forward. David Song, VP of Strategic Marketing, answered the question “Why Samsung?”
“From a technology perspective, compared to other vendors Samsung is the only company that has complete convergence of technology, making us a single-source provider to meet customer needs. From printers and MFPs to tablets and LFDs, as well as associated software, Samsung can provide a complete solution for business users.” Song went on to tell the story of a customer, an airport, that needed LFDs for its terminals and printers for its back offices. Samsung was not only able to fulfill the need for the hardware, but also went on develop a single-sign-on solution to manage and monitor all the hardware.
“For Samsung, it’s not just about moving the box,” Song continued. “We’ve made real progress with our MX7 series, because of the innovation and differentiation that comes from adjacent technologies that no other vendor can match.” The MX7 series models include the X7600, X7500, X7400 and K7600, K7500 and K7400. Considered real game-changers for Samsung, these models boast features like a 10.1-inch Android tablet interface, as well as fastest in class scanning (240-ipm for double-sided scanning on the GX models). (Click to see why BLI chose the MX7 series as the best in class for both color and monochrome MFPs.)
But the panel is only part of the story. The Samsung Smart UX Center 2.0 is the entire ecosystem of the panel, the platform and the apps, working together to create an enhanced user experience. The Samsung Smart UX SDK (software development kit) allows developer partners and even dealers to develop custom Android apps for the platform.
“Samsung has a clear vision for success. In terms of our roadmap for the next 2 to 5 years, we are still determining the exact path, but we are fully committed to developing the hardware and software to provide the greatest value to our customers,” Song said. “Our software team is working and updating our capabilities almost daily to increase the range of solutions we can offer.”
Flexible Platforms: XOA-Embedded, XOA-Web and Android
Harris Han, Vice President of Software Development, and Chin Yoon, Vice President of Enterprise Business Group Sales & Marketing, gave me an overview of their solutions strategy, covering the different platforms available to provide customers the greatest choice, flexibility and value in document imaging. Samsung products rely on one of three platforms for solutions integration: XOA-Embedded (Java based), XOA-Web (a “lite” version) and the Android platform.
The Android platform offers a number of benefits. From the end-user standpoint, there is the familiarity of the tablet look and feel, with the ability to integrate existing Android apps (Samsung has locked down the platform, so IT managers needn’t worry about users installing non-business/MFP related apps on the device) and, of course, the short development cycle required for Android apps. For example, this platform allows existing Android apps to be ported over the Smart UX Center. One of these apps is Hancom Office, an open-source office suite that allows a walk-up user to open a Microsoft Office file from a USB drive, edit it at the panel, save the updated version and print the file—all without a PC.
Introduced in March 2015, the Smart UX Software Developer Kit has been very well received, according to Samsung, with monthly downloads exceeding 56,000 in the last quarter of 2015. In terms of available apps, the available catalog of roughly 30 apps is expected to grow in the coming months, especially after the upcoming SDC developer conference scheduled to be held April 27 and 28 in San Francisco.
In addition to the Android apps, Samsung devices also offer the Java-based XOA embedded platform, which enables integration with Samsung and third-party developed software. These applications help lower costs, enhance functionality, boost security and streamline workflows for customers. To better meet the needs of users, Samsung partners with key software vendors to ensure seamless integration with their portfolio of products. One such partnership is the expanded strategic partnership with Nuance that lets Samsung sell and distribute Nuance AutoStore, Equitrac Office/Express and SafeCom; Nuance will also provide service and support to qualifying customers. XOA-Web is a lite version of the open platform that allows solutions integration for entry-level devices, creating the opportunity to implement workflow tools even on lower-priced devices.
Vision 2020: Inspire the World, Create the Future
Samsung Electronics’ Vision 2020 Plan seeks to catapult the company to the number-five spot globally among document imaging OEMs in the next four years, while achieving $400 billion in sales. The vision hinges upon the three key pillars of Creativity, Partnership and Great People as the recipe for success.
Clearly, Samsung is a technology giant with the dedicated investment in people, research and innovation that could potentially take them to the top spot in the printing industry. We predict that the industry will see more hardware and software innovation in the coming years and, with the current state of document imaging, Samsung is planning to take the leadership position. Can they do it? We’ll all have to watch, wait and see.