Samsung's eye scrolling feature will test software chops

Summary:Samsung has a bevy of interesting software efforts for both consumer and business, but an eye scrolling feature on the Galaxy S IV will go a long way to determining if the company can become more than a hardware player.

Samsung will reportedly enable Galaxy S IV customers to scroll pages with eye movements. The feature will go a long way to making or breaking Samsung's image as a serious software player.

According to the New York Times:

The phone will track a user’s eyes to determine where to scroll, said a Samsung employee who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

The promise of eye scrolling sounds wonderful. The problem: I couldn't contain my skepticism. A few open questions:

  1. Will my eye movement have to be exaggerated to scroll?
  2. Can this eye scrolling thing work consistently?
  3. How buggy will this software be?

Those questions are largely there because Samsung is an unknown when it comes to software. Sure, Samsung's Android may be better than Google's . The Galaxy Note has some handy handwriting software. On the other side, there's buggy Smart TV software. For business use, Samsung has SAFE, which is designed to make Android more secure for corporate use, and Knox, software that firewalls corporate and consumer applications. But Samsung is a hardware company primarily. The company is about devices, screens and chips.

Also Samsung Galaxy S4 and Knox: iPhone versus Android just got exciting again  |  MWC 2013: Samsung's Knox system takes BYOD fight to BlackBerry  |  Special Galaxy S III offers enterprises SAFE Android

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Part of Samsung's potential software perception problem revolves around Android. Android carries the software day for Samsung, which adds its own features to be unique.

Should Samsung nail the eye scrolling, it will have a key software feature in its cap. If Samsung's new feature bombs, the downside is limited: Many people will simply view it as a hardware player. As Samsung's recent momentum and financial results show, being a dominant hardware player has its perks. However, software — and Samsung's proficiency with it — will determine whether the company can remain dominant.

Barclays analyst SC Bae notes that Samsung's eye scrolling application is just one part of a broader push into software.

One of the clear impressions we got during the MWC 2013 was that product differentiation through only hardware might not be as effective as it has been. Although we still found some gaps among manufacturers in terms of the finishings, we could not see many differences among the players. On the other hand, we got the impression that the first tier players are clearly migrating their focus to software/user experience and synergies with other devices. We believe product differentiation on software/user experience is more effective and sustainable because software is more difficult to be copied than hardware and it has economies of scale.

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Topics: Bring Your Own Device, Mobility, Samsung, Smartphones, Tablets

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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