Apple and Samsung have looked like enemies since the advent of the smartphone. They continue to be the world’s two most popular smartphone brands, each with legions of customers that rival sports teams for their ferociousness. However, the success of the two companies’ prospects are intertwined and their headline-grabbing competition could be better described as collaboration.
Apple invented the smartphone when it released the original iPhone in 2007, but Apple did not manufacture the phone on its own. The Cupertino-based company still proudly says its products are “designed in California”, but beneath this message belies the fact that the iPhone is the final form of dozens of components manufactured and assembled by various different companies spread around the globe.
Right from the outset Apple was working with Samsung on its flagship device – the original iPhone was powered by a Samsung 32-bit RISC ARM processor, and this collaboration has continued all the way to the iPhone X. Apple may now create its own System on a Chip (SoC) processors, basing them on ARM designs, but now Samsung manufactures the OLED display, NAND flash, and DRAM found inside Apple’s latest and greatest smartphone. For each iPhone X Apple sells, the Wall Street Journal estimates that Samsung makes around $110 from its components.
There is a real rivalry between the companies, as demonstrated by the $539m lawsuit the US tech giant won against its South Korean competitor earlier this year. However, beyond the headline figures there is little doubt that Apple relies on Samsung to supply many parts of its market-leading devices and Samsung relies on these sales to Apple for its own bottom line.
Competition and the rivalries that spring from it are a natural part of the capitalist system that has underpinned the global economy for the last century, but as globalisation continues apace and the digital world gets ever more complex, many of these previous rivals have now become “frenemies”. In 2018, collaborations are commonplace, with many companies now actively looking to team up with one or more partners to create a final product or service.
Microsoft and Intel have led the way in partnerships between technology firms, with their “Wintel” products defining the PC market for the last two three decades. However, it is not only two similarly-sized tech behemoths that can work together to build successful products, with large technology companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google now providing the infrastructure to the small, lean startups that have emerged to compete with them. Where once these tech titans would look to crush the competition before they get started, now they offer the tools that help these startups compete.
The open source community has long meant that collaboration was part of technological progress, but today it has become a much broader trend. Whether it is game developers NetEnt collaborating with gambling firm Mr Green to create a 3D live casino, Starbucks and Spotify working together to get people to buy more coffee and music, or BMW and Montblanc working together on luxury transport – collaboration is the new competition.