NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It is tacit knowledge that Samsung is an imitator. They have perfected the art of recognizing a winner, then reproducing it. Not just the the product, but the entire supply chain.
Sun Tzu: "It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results."
Samsung has an advantage with
in that they partner in development and are a major supplier, so there's advanced knowledge, whether direct or interpreted, that can be used to tactical advantage.
Apple is aware of this reality in a manner that few of us can imagine. This is the art of war to its highest degree. Apple understands the nature of a spy, and they understand how to control information, even from trusted internals. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.
Sun Tzu: "Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate."
The use of patents and other forms of intellectual property are part of an elaborate intellectual arsenal. Giants like Apple and Samsung use patents like smart weapons, sometimes for cover, other times full on frontal shock and awe. They have legions of highly skilled and disciplined legal eagles that skate over the complexities and nuances of IP law, bending, twisting, creating grand illusions that suit their needs.
"The general who wins the battle, makes many calculations before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand."
Apple was long ago aware of the Phablet form factor. Steve Jobs spent years designing and playing with phone and tablet prototypes of every conceivable form, gleaning over details. It was never about leading with one product. It was about creating product lines that were integrated in every conceivable way, from how they are used, to how they are distributed, to how they evolve.
"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."
When Apple came out with the recent message, told through a TV ad, about how the current four-inch iPhone was perfect for one hand operation. This provided a testament to its design and simultaneously a diversion to make it appear as if Apple was stuck and prepared to go down in the flames of arrogance. A supreme feint, designed to transfer the arrogance to Samsung.
"If you know the enemy and you know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and you know Earth, you may make your victory complete."
As important as the physical product is, the methodology is more important, the philosophy, that guides development. That's one thing that Samsung cannot copy, no matter how many Silicon Valley nerds they hire. It's the culture of simplicity ingrained into Apple, it's in the DNA. Steve Jobs put it there and it lives on.
Jobs's philosophy was to have the discipline to think through what people want by reflecting on ourselves. There's no need for focus groups. These are time wasters when all this knowledge is within each and everyone of us. Ideas go through a process of thoughtful reduction, shed features until a minimally viable product emerges.
The key is to be nimble, look for customer feedback and validation, if it's missing, you pivot, and have the courage to throw the shit stuff out, and start again, get it right.
Apple undoubtedly has a phablet, a five-inch iPhone in the works. They most certainly have a number of variations, with individual devices and across product lines. There's one thing for certain; we'll see a precursor and an evolutionary product that will carve out a space, backfilled with an integrated product line. It will be what people want, and Samsung will try to copy it.
-- Written by Ernie Varitimos, author of the Apple Investor blog.
This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Ernie Varitimos has a long history with Apple as an investor, trader and consumer of its technology. He started his career as a rocket scientist and has spent the past 25 years driving, controlling and influencing technology in the financial industry. Ernie is a former hedge fund manager and current futures trader.