Recent news of Samsung, on the other hand, paints a picture of a company that is furthering its capacity for innovation. This week we learned that Samsung made the most patent applications to the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2012, making it the first Asian company to top the EPO’s annual filings list. In the most recent issue of IAM, we revealed that Samsung possesses the largest portfolio of active US patents. Patenting statistics do not necessarily tell us how innovative a company is, of course, but they can be indicators of its investment in R&D, and that means that they can be deployed as powerful marketing tools by any company that wants to be perceived as an innovative force.
Samsung has been honing this image in other ways, too. On Wednesday, it was reported that it will be acquiring a 3% stake in ailing Sharp, a move which could improve its access to display technology. Last month, the company announced the launch of a new Open Innovation Center in Silicon Valley. As well as enabling collaborative R&D, the facility will also present Samsung with an opportunity to scout for potential future investments and acquisition targets.
Apple’s ambitions are less clear. The company has amassed plenty of cash and could make a powerful statement by elucidating just how much of that it will plough into R&D and strategic acquisitions; but it has given little indication of what, if anything, it plans to do with it. Furthermore, most of us would not necessarily think of Apple in terms of collaboration on R&D with other companies or engagement in open innovation – things which Samsung is clearly keen to broadcast about itself.
Not so long ago, Samsung was viewed by many as a company focused on cut-price mass production, desperate to catch up with Apple and its indomitable brand. But which of the two companies looks the more innovative today? There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to innovate; and it could just be the case that Apple has more ground-breaking products up its sleeve but prefers, for whatever reason, to keep as much as possible under wraps. Nevertheless, Samsung seems to be getting all of the good news lately, while Apple is receiving some particularly negative press.
Jack Ellis, IAM Magazine