Philip Elmer-DeWitt 2014-01-07






    • 经济增长放缓——预计三星下周将公布四季度运营利润增长9.2%,《华尔街日报》(the Wall Street Journal)称,这个增幅远低于三季度26%的涨幅。

    • 竞争加剧——三星面临的竞争主要来自中国山寨手机厂商,后者制造智能手机的成本控制得比三星还低。

    • 利润下降——韩国投行Mirae分析师都铉宇(音译)向《华尔街日报》表示:“低端智能手机在三星手机总销量中所占的比例有所上升,挤压了利润。”






    Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, 71, looked a little shaky Thursday as he arrived to deliver his annual new year's address.

    And so did the conglomerate he's run since 1987 (not counting the two years he took off after his 2008 conviction for embezzlement and tax evasion).

    Samsung plays the heavy in so many global markets -- and so many Apple (AAPL) stories -- that it's a little hard to see the world's largest information technology manufacturer in terms of its frailties. But with shares down 10% in 2013 and another 4.6% in the first day of 2014 trading -- Samsung's largest one-day percentage drop in seven months -- those frailties are what analysts are talking about.

    Their list may sound familiar to Apple investors:

    • Slowing growth -- Samsung next week is expected to report fourth quarter operating profits up 9.2% -- "a sharp slowdown," according to the Wall Street Journal, "from the 26% gain in the third quarter."

    • Growing competition -- Mainly from Chinese manufacturers that can make knockoff smartphones even more cheaply than Samsung.

    • Shrinking margins -- "The proportion of less-premium smartphones appears to have increased within the portfolio, squeezing margins," Mirae's Doh Hyun-woo told the Journal.

    But Lee knows that Samsung faces deeper, more structural problems.

    No electronics manufacturer is better at rapidly turning out in huge quantities smartphones and tablets of different sizes and specs. But in the mobile device market that accounts for more than 50% of its profits, Samsung can't match Apple's software ecosystem, is dependent on Google (GOOG) for Android, and can't seem to shake off the 2012 Apple patent infringement verdict that branded it a "copycat" -- no matter how many flashy innovations it adds to its high-end Galaxy line.

    Lee, who 20 years ago famously advised employees to "change everything but your wife and children," stressed on Thursday the need to drop old habits and come up with new technologies -- particularly in software.

    Samsung must "get rid of business models and strategies from five, ten years ago and hardware-focused ways, he said. "Research & development center(s) should work around the clock, non-stop."