A time for nimblenessKorea made great stride in electronics and information technology in the early 2000s. It not only remained a winner in the turbulent global semiconductor business, it also charted a new frontier in cellphone technologies by introducing a CDMA-based digital mobile phone for the first time. In the wake of Korea’s advanced commercialization of high-end smartphones and ever-fiercer global competition, smart devices have emerged as game changers in the IT sector.
In this remarkable evolution, we witnessed the demise of Japan as a powerhouse in the electronics industry. Sony, a former icon of electronics innovation, is undergoing a painful restructuring starting with the shutting of its overseas factories over the last decade. As seen in the collapse of most semiconductor companies in Japan, an unsuccessful preparation for the transition from the analogue to the digital age created a rust belt country.
But now, alarm bells are ringing in Korea’s IT industry - an ominous reminder of Japan’s fate. The global stature of Samsung Electronics is under threat. The IT powerhouse has lost its No. 1 position in the Chinese domestic market to Xiaomi, the world’s leading cellphone manufacturer, and handed over its crown to Chinese multinational technology firm Lenovo in the global low-end smartphone market, according to a recent survey.
World records are being broken by Chinese companies. TCL Corporation, a Chinese multinational electronics company headquartered in Huizhou, Guangdong, showed the world’s largest curved ultra-high-definition television at IFA, an annual consumer electronics show in Berlin. A Chinese company also released a prototype of a Quantum Dots TV based on semiconductor nanocrystal technology ahead of its Korean counterparts.
The new race is not about the industrial transformation from analogue to digital technology, but about a new type of market in which IT companies are in a fight to lead the market. That’s a new challenge for the existing IT companies. In the new market, no one can ensure a victory for a traditional powerhouse. It all depends on creative and novel ideas, competition and cooperation way beyond the boundary of friends and foes, and adjustments to a new type of competition.
Apple has entered the big-size smartphone market once dominated by Korean companies after introducing its own 4.7 and 5.5 inch iPhone 6s. It also introduced a new mobile payment technology - dubbed Apple Pay - after acquiring Near Field Communication technology from the Android operating system developed by its rival Google.
The rules of the game have changed. Korean companies must face up to the new realities of the IT market.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 12, Page 30