Apple and Samsung to compete in self-driving industry too.
Securing a platform is the top priority for decades-long prosperity for any info-tech giants here and abroad.
The “platform” here refers to such ecosystems as the Android or iOS smartphone operating systems (OS). In the internet industry, the platform can be seen as search portals — such as Google, Baidu, or Naver in Korea.
Even if such tech titans take the lead on their own platforms, they are always seeking to find future growth areas and secure the next big thing in emerging tech industries for additional platform leadership.
For the past ten years, smartphones have been the talk of the global tech business, helping companies such as Samsung and Apple generate astronomical profits. They took full advantage of the smartphone era by seamlessly creating sub-platforms — including voice assistant Siri for Apple and its Samsung counterpart Bixby.
But with the global smartphone industry reaching saturation amid the toughening rivalry and lack of eye-catching innovations, the two titans have in recent years turned their eyes to a new platform — driverless vehicles.
This is shown in recent remarks from Apple CEO Tim Cook who expressed interest in the emerging industry, calling it the pinnacle of his artificial intelligence (AI) project.
“We are focusing on autonomous systems,” he said in a recent media interview. The head of the world’s largest company by market capitalization said there is a major disruption looming there, as there are three underlying vectors of change happening within the same time frame. They include self-driving technology, electric vehicles and ride-hailing services, he said.
This is the first time the Apple chief has confirmed that the company is running a special taskforce dedicated to AI-converged autonomous vehicle research.
Rumors have had it in recent years that the iPhone maker was preparing to launch the so-called “Apple car.” But Cook said what the company views as important is not really hardware, but technology or software.
“We are not really saying from a product point of view what we will do,” he said. “But we are being straightforward that it is core technology we view as very important.”
Under the leadership of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, the company led the global mobile and PC industry for more than a decade with its mega-hit iPhone and MacBook series. iPhone sales remain robust, but calls have grown for the company to find next-generation cash cows.
Things are not different for Apple’s arch-rival Samsung. The Seoul-based electronics giant has tried to drive innovation in the Android smartphone industry by launching its flagship Galaxy series.
But the company also jumped on the autonomous car bandwagon by establishing an auto parts division in December 2015, in a move to turn the lucrative and promising auto-related business into a major profit generator.
In particular, last November Samsung acquired the U.S.-based auto parts supplier Harman International for $8 billion (8.99 trillion won), as part of its efforts to tap deeper into the lucrative in-vehicle components industry.
Samsung is also seeking to intensify its rivalry with Apple and Google by becoming a technology platform leader for the upcoming autonomous vehicle era.
Last month, the company got permission here to road test its driverless vehicle. At that time, the company teamed up with Hyundai Motor, equipping the automaker’s Grandeur sedan with state-of-the-art components — such as radar and cameras — which can compile data about road conditions. The compiled datasets will then be used to drive the vehicle on its own via deep learning technology from Samsung.
“Vehicles are one of the key revenue-generating platforms for technology giants,” said an official from the nation’s driverless vehicle industry. “The driverless vehicle era is expected to allow people to spend more free time in vehicles. This will create massive value-added products and services. To grab the upper hand in the next vehicle platform, tech powerhouses are making aggressive investment in the new tech paradigm shift.”
According to Gartner, a quarter of a billion vehicles will be connected wirelessly on the road by 2020. The market researcher said the connected vehicle industry will increase the consumption and creation of digital content within the vehicle, driving the need for more sophisticated infotainment systems, the building blocks of which include application processors, displays and human-machine interface technology.