It's no secret that Samsung is a hardware company first. The Korean firm became dominant in televisions and then mobile through efficiency and vertical integration in hardware development and production — not the software on its machines. In a world where a joint Google-Motorola and Microsoft-Nokia are following Apple as masters of both hardware and software, however, Samsung is starting to take the latter seriously. "The future for us is about the thoughtful integration of hardware and software," the head of the company's new startup incubators in San Francisco and New York told The Verge last month.
The extent of Samsung's interest in software startups is now clear, thanks to a document obtained by The Wall Street Journal elucidating the company's possible acquisition targets. The biggest name on the list is Waze, an Israeli startup that offered a mapping service that used crowdsourced traffic and gas data. A source tells the paper that Samsung was in discussions to form a partnership with the startup before acquisitions discussions began. It ultimately lost out to Google's $1.1 billion bid.
"The future for us is about the thoughtful integration of hardware and software."
The document also reveals that Samsung looked into Unity Technologies, which makes the game engine behind many mobile games. Also on the gaming front, the Korean company showed interest in possibly buying Atari's classic game catalog as well as Green Throttle Games, which is attempting to turn Android phones into game consoles.
Glympse, the Seattle startup behind a location-sharing service similar to Apple's Find My Friends and Google's now-defunct Latitude, is also on the list. A source tells the WSJ that Samsung first made overtures to the company in 2012, and discussions are said to be ongoing. Samsung says in the document that it would use the location-sharing service in its contacts and maps apps on its Android smartphones.
Lastly, video chat app Rounds and Android home screen replacement app Everything.me are on the list as well. The rationale behind acquiring or partnering with any of these companies is clear: Samsung wants to differentiate its Android smartphones with exclusive software. The company has long attempted to do so in-house with a huge number of questionably-useful software features on devices like the Galaxy S III and S4. Any acquisitions would likely follow the model of Samsung's 2012 purchase of mSpot, which led to a streaming music service called Samsung Music Hub — exclusive to the company's phones. On the television side, Samsung recently acquired Boxee and folded the company's staff into its TV software development staff. There will certainly be more acquisitions in the future, however. We should expect to hear much more about the company's software plans soon: Samsung's holding its first-ever developers conference later this month in San Francisco.