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Samsung CEO bets big on connectivity to take on Apple

By Jie Ye-eun

Published : April 17, 2024 - 15:02

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Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and co-CEO Han Jong-hee (center) looks around the company's exhibition booth at Milan Design Week in Milan, Tuesday. (Samsung Electronics) Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and co-CEO Han Jong-hee (center) looks around the company's exhibition booth at Milan Design Week in Milan, Tuesday. (Samsung Electronics)

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and co-CEO Han Jong-hee said its home appliance division, backed by enhanced connectivity with mobile devices, will enjoy its heyday in the second half of this year, showing confidence in the competition with its powerful rival Apple.

“We may not yet be the No. 1 player in the home appliance sector. But if we can offer more enhanced connectivity, based on our leadership in TVs and smartphones, consumers will respond positively,” Han said at a press conference Tuesday on the sidelines of this year’s Milan Design Week, one of the largest international design and furniture exhibitions, being held in the northern Italy city.

Han, who has been leading Samsung’s home appliance business division since the end of 2022, is making a big push to improve the division’s profitability, which has been hit hard by the economic situation.

Recently, Samsung unveiled its latest Bespoke AI home appliance lineup, including washer-dryer combos, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners, all equipped with advanced AI capabilities and seamless connectivity.

At this year’s Milan Design Week, which runs from Tuesday to Sunday, the tech giant has set up a 964-square-meter booth at EuroCucina to display its new built-in products, all linked to its SmartThings ecosystem to maximize connectivity and boost convenience for users.

“We value the connection between the products we make, and if we do this well, I think we can compete with Apple,” the CEO said. “Who knew that Apple would have a hard time because it is not good with AI?”

He also hinted that Samsung will introduce generative AI based on a large language model to its Bixby voice assistant in July. As communication akin to talking to a person becomes possible, the connection of AI home appliances led by Samsung Electronics is expected to become even more sophisticated.

Regarding the aggressive global market penetration of Chinese rivals, Han said what is important is how a company approaches consumers with products, regardless of the technology gap. “For us, (we value high on) connecting experience through AI. … But since competition from China grows, we must be cautious.”