Choe Sang-Hun in a long piece for The New York Times about Samsung, perfectly encapsulates what Samsung is, was, and will continue to be:
Although the name Samsung is synonymous with sophistication among South Koreans, the company has never created a product so innovative that it has defined an era in consumer culture, like the Sony Walkman or the Apple iPhone.
Samsung has done an amazing job, as the article points out, at reacting quickly and moving fast when another companies idea catches a spark.
“Look what has happened to companies like Nokia, Motorola and BlackBerry, which didn’t do as Samsung did,” Mr. Song added, referring to competitors whose failures to adapt quickly to the smartphone boom driven by iPhones have drastically reduced their market shares. “Samsung may lack in innovation, but right now, no one can beat Samsung in playing catch-up.”
What Samsung does in consumer electronics it does very well, but what happens to Samsung when they don’t have someone to follow? I’d argue the same thing happens that happened to Microsoft when Apple was faltering and wasn’t innovating OS features — you get Windows XP for a decade.1
Yes, OS X came out alongside XP, but OS X so caught Microsoft off guard that they had to re-tool in order to move to compete. ↩