Learn from Samsung: Should You Be a First Mover or Fast Follower?

October 22, 2013

The Samsung Galaxy Gear Smart Watch Source: CNet

Ever since its unveiling of the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, Samsung has been the target of a host of scathing reviews. CNet called it “style over substance.” The Boston Globe was even harsher, asserting that they have rarely “tested a more forgettable piece of hardware.”

The reviews continue to be brutal. With a hefty $299 price and compatibility limited to the Phablet phone, the Galaxy Gear smartwatch is the answer to a question no one asked.

Yet if no one has been clamoring for a smart watch, then what were Samsung’s motivations to create one in the first place?

Samsung’s Motivation Behind the Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

1) Preempt the Competition

The smartwatch is being touted as the Next Big Thing. With the smartphone wars ongoing, there is a desire to use the watch as a platform to create accessories. In comparison to the forward thinking Apple, Samsung has long been derided as a copycat. This is Samsung’s attempt to create a niche, create some buzz around their product, and be seen as an innovator.

2) Make the Existing Product Base More Attractive

While clearly a Version 1.0 product, Samsung has plans to make their Smartwatch compatible with the popular line of Galaxy S3 and S4 phones. You have to start somewhere, and with a first-mover advantage, Samsung is poised to at least get their existing ecosystem interested in the Smartwatch concept.

But when does it make sense to be a first mover? If you fail to have a compelling product at launch, you risk the chance of being lambasted in the media for producing a half baked product. From the B2B Startup perspective, very few new companies have the financial and PR resources of Samsung to handle a failed product launch.

First Mover or Fast Follower?

When to Be a First Mover

If you have a product that you feel can garner positive reviews, is compelling to your customers, and takes advantage of network externalities, then go for the launch. Apple was quick to release their App Store on the iPhone, knowing it would take a lot of customer adaptation before it could become popular. The App Store’s early launch helped create a “Lock In” effect and encouraged software developers to create Apps for their iOS platform.

Apple’s quick move kept their user base loyal and simultaneously made their product stronger. As their App Store offerings became more attractive, users of other platforms began to consider giving Apple a shot.

When to Be a Fast Follower

In the case of the smartwatch concept, Apple is taking a fast follower approach. They are allowing Samsung to take the first shot. After seeing the results, Apple can evaluate the product and the market’s response. Doing so gives Apple an opportunity to learn from Samsung’s mistakes and tweak their own anticipated smartwatch. In this case, the product isn’t software or hardware that needs to quickly establish a strong user base. Apple can take the fast follower approach because the smartwatch is designed to be a companion to the smartphone.

What Do You Think?

Did Samsung make the right move or should it have taken the fast follower approach?





Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations

Sudip is in charge of Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations at <a href="http://www.alegeus.com/">Alegeus Technologies</a>. Previously, he worked at OpenView from 2012 until 2014 with portfolio companies to provide insights on the markets they operate in, their customers, and drive development of business strategies.