South Korea has about 0.7% of the world’s population and is smaller than California, yet it was responsible for two instances of world domination in 2012.
The 1st was Gangnam Style‘s Psy’s frenetic juggernaut of a viral video that, by November, had become the most-viewed ever on YouTube. The 2nd was Samsung.
Psy can perhaps be dismissed as a 1-shot novelty act, but Samsung’s success is no fluke. The company has been around in 1 form or another since 1938, first as a grocer and now a chaebol that makes everything from apparel to medical equipment to ships. However, in 2012, Samsung became a top-tier player in mobile computing and the only serious rival to Apple in the segment.
Samsung’s commanding position in the market is best illustrated by this chart. By the third quarter, Samsung had sold twice as many smartphones as Apple worldwide, according to IDC.
To get a sense of what kind of achievement that is, consider that Samsung had just 3.3% of the market in late 2009 and Android only had around 5.2%. You could argue that Samsung just bet on what would become the predominant mobile OS, but Samsung hedged its bets with its own mobile OS, Bada. Well before the first Android phone release in September 2008, Samsung had also released the first of many would-be iPhone killers, the Instinct.
Clearly, Samsung was hell-bent on breaking into the smartphone market. It wasn’t the only one. Recall that that 1st Android device was actually manufactured by HTC, which, in 2008, looked like a rising star while Samsung was shaping up to be an also-ran. In fact, things looked that way this time last year, when HTC was still making huge profits and growing at a rapid clip. What was HTC’s problem? In part, the company was getting crushed in China, where Samsung was cutting prices.