Towards the end of our day at Samsung's European Forum in Vienna, we were ushered into a small room to interview Samsung's Head of Worldwide Sales and Marketing (Computing Division), Kyu Uhm.
As well as talking about the state of the netbook market, Uhm hinted at some interesting developments with Windows 7, not least that the company may consider shipping better versions - rather than Windows 7 Starter Edition - depending on the royalties Samsung would have to pay Microsoft.
When asked whether Samsung was actively developing Windows 7 netbooks, Uhm was certain. "Of course, of course." And what of better versions of Windows?
"Currently Microsoft provides Windows XP for netbooks. For Windows 7 they would like to give us Windows 7 Starter Edition for netbooks. That's the current plan.
"[Different versions are a] matter of how much we need to pay to Microsoft. It is an open issue. So we can ship other Windows 7 versions, but it is a matter of royalties."
When we pressed further, Uhm became cagey. "We need to ask Microsoft first."
Uhm also had some observations on the netbook market and how the market will pan out. By the way, Samsung confusingly refers to netbooks as mini notebooks.
"Mini notebooks are one of the key drivers for Samsung's growth in the short term period," he said.
But are netbooks a flash in the pan? "It's difficult to say. Short term is last year... we didn't even know the mini notebook market is growing so fast. We [hope] to grow faster than our competitors. But we don't know about tomorrow. Until then, we will do our best to expand our current capability."
Future plans for Samsung
Patrick Pavel European Product Manager, was also in our meeting and gave us some insight into how Samsung sees itself in terms of its market share. We asked him whether he believed Samsung is where it wants to be in terms of computing sales in Europe - it's currently down the pecking order in sixth place for notebook sales.
"Let's say we have a short term and a long term strategy. In the long term we want to be, let's say in the next two or three years, top three. Recently in the mini notebooks, we reached number one position in the UK. At the same time you see the customer who was maybe hesitating to put our brand towards their shelves, there is this very nice mini notebook."
Pavel added that he expected a 6.5-7 per cent market share in Europe this year.
On Linux and Apple...
Speaking about Linux, Pavel said it was now unlikely the company would make a Linux netbook, but added that Samsung would do one if users demanded it: "[Linux netbooks] made a certain community very happy."
Referring to Best Buy's reputed 40 per cent return rate on these devices, he added: "The normal user, they are used to XP and how to install a printer and so on. We can do Linux if the market is demanding it. If there's demand, let's do it. We even started to develop some Linux platforms."
On a different tack, Pavel also made it clear that Samsung isn't considering launching a secondary brand like Dell's Adamo. "If we are doing advertising, if we start now doing some other brand... rather than splitting the funds. As you know, the margins in the PC market are not that big. We decided to use the Samsung brand, which is obviously a strong brand."
Pavel added that the company wouldn't be held to ransom by trying to compete with Apple in the design space. Referring to the X360 thin and light notebook, he said: "We do such a flagship product not because of sales but more a marketing tool. Yes, we're going to continue to do such stuff, maybe one or two products, but in order to make the money and make the volume it's not so important, but maybe we'll be more aggressive in this area."
Uhm added "We will continue. Apple? Different market sector, different users. We are targeting Windows users." He refused to be drawn when we pointed out that Apple was now targeting Windows users itself.
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