Samsung & Apple – A Lesson in Competitive Research

Competitive research is a critical part of a product manager’s job. There’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. The Apple v. Samsung case has done a great job of illustrating both.

Let’s say you find yourself, as Samsung did, suddenly well behind a competitor in some important aspect of your product. Customers are telling you this, analysts are telling you this, your kids are telling you this. You have an obligation to understand the problem and to articulate it in nauseating detail to your development team. It’s your job to not only close the gap, but to leap ahead of your competitors. Time for some serious competitive analysis. Samsung did the work here – check out this exhibit from the trial.

The Good: Samsung did a very detailed analysis of the gaps between their product and the iPhone. You need to get to this level of analysis in order to understand the problem.

The Bad: They went beyond analysis and actually used screen shots from the competitive product to describe what needed to be done in their products. Presumably this was given to developers. They are basically saying “make ours looks just like theirs”. Yea, that’s illegal.

Image from Techcrunch

Image from Techcrunch

If the next version of your product comes out and looks and feels exactly like the competitive product that you used to perform your analysis, you have made a serious mistake. The Samsung product manager should have thrown a flag at this point. Going to market with a straight-up rip-off of your competitors product is not only extremely uncool, but as Samsung just learned, illegal and expensive.

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