Asian consumers worry about innovation in Apple-Samsung fallout

Mobile users in Asia express support for the Korean electronics giant and fears its innovation for future products may be stifled following the patent verdict.

The Apple-Samsung verdict has sparked fears among mobile consumers in Asia that it will result in lesser innovation from the South Korean company and pave the way for Cupertino to become a monopoly in consumer electronics. Industry watchers, however, say both companies' reputation as market leaders are likely to remain intact.

A California jury over the weekend ruled Samsung Electronics had infringed Apple's design and utility patents for some of its products and awarded the latter US$1.05 billion in damages.

Samsung then released a statement saying the ruling would lead to "fewer choices, less innovation and potentially higher prices". "Consumers have the right to choices and they know what they are buying when they purchase Samsung products," it said.

According to Andrew Milroy, vice president of Asia-Pacific ICT Practice at Frost & Sullivan, the verdict could potentially lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

He noted that non-Apple handset makers would have to "manage risks" from offering products which could potentially result in similar lawsuits, he explained. This could mean such costs would be passed to consumers, Milroy remarked.

It would also discourage handset makers from improving and enhancing existing technology, he added.

Many believe Samsung had been innovating well and some of its products were better than Apple's, so the ruling could inhibit its innovation, the analyst noted.

Phil Hassey, founder of research firm CapioIT, agreed consumers will see lesser innovation in terms of "device". However, he said more innovation will be seen in terms of how the device is actually used.

This could even accelerate the move away from device-centric environments, Hassey noted.

"Samsung is a widely respected Asian brand and I'm afraid it will no longer live up to its name because of the verdict, or that it may not have enough money to innovate anymore."

-Park Soo Jeong, marketing executive

Asian consumers fear impact on innovation, choice
Consumers in Asia have expressed fear the court's ruling would stifle innovation from Samsung.

South Korea-based Park Soo Jeong said she was "indignant" about the verdict and "worried" Samsung's innovation focus now may move in a different direction away from its products.

"Samsung is a widely respected Asian brand and I'm afraid it will no longer live up to its name because of the verdict, or that it may not have enough money to innovate anymore," said Park, who is a marketing executive.

A China-based smartphone user, Fu Dan, expressed fears consumer choice will become limited because of the verdict and pave the way for Cupertino to monopolize the market.

"My main concern [is] the customer does not win in this case and Apple will [become a monopoly], putting Samsung at an even lower position," Fu said.

Adeline Lee, managing director of public relations agency SGstory, believes Samsung's reputation will not be affected by the court's verdict. The agency does not represent companies involved or that offer products directly associated with technologies mentioned in the lawsuit.

Lee said only Samsung's earlier products such as Galaxy S1 and S2 were cited in the lawsuit, noting that people were more familiar with its newer products such as Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Tablet.

The South Korean company's branding is likely to retain its high value in Asia and people often associate brands with newer products rather than their older offerings, she said.

Hassey agreed, adding that in this long-term patent lawsuit, Samsung is "fighting as the underdog" so people will understand and realize Apple is a difficult organization to fight or compete against.

South Korean Kang Hanbyuk, who uses the iPhone, told ZDNet that while he preferred Apple's user interface, the verdict would not affect his impression of the Asian electronic giant.

"[Samsung] is famous for its innovation, and a lawsuit would not make me think lesser of them," said Kang, who is based in Singapore.