Samsung Woos Developers In The Battle For Your Living Room

Apple has Apple TV and Google Google has Chromecast, both clever attempts to converge mobile devices with TV sets. Samsung is getting further into that game too, except instead of releasing a gadget as hardware companies are wont to do, it is using software and protocols, and asking for a little help from the developer community.

At its first major developers conference held Monday in San Francisco, Samsung announced it was offering a software development kit (SDK) to make it easer for mobile devices, including those made by other vendors like Apple or Nokia , to pair with a Samsung Smart TV.

'Today your living room is full of devices,' said Juan Pablo Gnecco of Samsung Media Solutions, citing an eye-opening stat from Nielson that suggested American homes now housed six devices on average. 'What's missing is a platform that allows developers to easily create multi-screen applications. So we're introducing a Samsung multi-screen SDK.'

The SDK, being released on Nov. 18, allows app creators to more easily make a service that works across both a smartphone and Samsung Smart TV at the same time. It's founded on technology created by MOVL, second-screen startup that Samsung bought in May.

Gnecco said Samsung had created a simple set of application programming interfaces for Android, Apple's iOS, JavaScript and C++, which allowed developers to display their apps on top of live TV by using the HTML 5 web standard. Gnecco demonstrated how he could watch a sports game and use a sports app on his phone to display scores on the TV, then in a smaller window on the TV follow particular soccer player on the pitch.

One demo featured the group-chatting app Rabbit, so that while watching a television program, Gnecco could search a list of contacts on the Rabbit app on his phone, and then invite them into a group chat. Their faces then appeared in small circles on a the Samsung TV displaying a TV program.

Another feature called Samsung Chord, which was part of the new mobile SDK that Samsung also launched, allowed users to pinch the screens of two Samsung devices together so they could be paired to, for instance, play a game of air hockey across them both.

An executive from Pandora took to the stage to talk about how the music-streaming app had used Samsung's Smart TV SDK to display Pandora's song information on a TV and play music through its speakers. 'The APIs were really simple for us to integrate,' the executive said on stage. 'Very straight forward.'

The CEO of software gaming platform Unity, Dave Helgason, also took the stage to talk about how his company was using Samsung's game development kit to create multi-screen games that could be played using a Samsung mobile device as a controller and its smart TV as the main display. He had no products to launch on Monday, saying only that 'it's early alpha' for what Unity wanted to release, but he promised tools would be available on the Unity website that developers could use to create 'native feeling Samsung apps.'

The idea of 'Samsung apps,' though technically imprecise, is really what Samsung is trying to get at with both Monday's landmark conference and the release of its new software tools - services that are designed to utilize the Samsung S-pen, or utilize the air-gesture feature on Galaxy phones, or sync apps between a Samsung mobile phone and Samsung TV. It wants unique software that will keep consumers buying more Samsung hardware.

Smart TVs, which range from $500 to $1,000, are another high margin business for Samsung. They could become increasingly important as sales of smartphones - which account for two thirds of Samsung Electronics' Samsung Electronics' operating profits - see their growth slow while markets like the United States and Europe become saturated. Last Friday Samsung revealed that operating profits at its mobile division grew 7%, a marked slowdown from the comparable quarter last year when the division grew by 132%.

New figures out today from Strategy Analytics also showed that global smartphone shipments grew by 45% annually to reach a record 251 million units in the third quarter, with Samsung hitting a record 35% global smartphone marketshare. It sold two times more smartphones than Apple in the quarter, but demand for Samsung's flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone had 'softened,' Strategy Analytics said, as consumers went for more of its cheaper, mass market smartphone like the Galaxy Y.

Samsung hopes that better software will give its mobile devices and, increasingly, TVs the differentiation its needs to keep that high-end growth going.

Also on Forbes:Gadgets And Gizmos Powering Home Automation


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