How Samsung plans to fix its Galaxy Apps store
In an interview, the head of Samsung's US media and software unit talks about creating a different kind of app store environment.
Wait, Samsung has an app store?
You could be forgiven if you've never heard of Galaxy Apps, Samsung's own version of an app store, designed to service its increasingly large lineup of products, which grew on Wednesday with the unveiling of the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge. Prior to July, Galaxy Apps went by Samsung Apps, the change being an acknowledgement that awareness of the store was limited.
John Pleasants, head of Samsung's Media Solutions Center America, or MSCA, the unit responsible for the app store, wants to change that.
"Our app store needs to be world class in itself," he said in an interview. "We need to work more at attracting more developers."
The unit has seen some drastic changes over the last several months. Pleasants, who joined Samsung in June after stints at companies such as Disney and Electronic Arts, runs a unit that traditionally has reported back to headquarters in Korea. In August, the unit was shuffled under Samsung's US unit, and Pleasants reports to Samsung's North American CEO, Gregory Lee.
"It's a big deal, actually," Pleasants said. "It's a very empowering sort of thing for us."
By aligning itself more closely to the other regional units, Pleasants said, his unit contributes more to the immediate success of Samsung's products. Previously, MSCA acted like a satellite operation more focused on research. "Before, it was people on the side reporting up to headquarters that were working on things not necessarily at the spear point of commercialization (in North America)," he said.
One of the focuses for Pleasants will be improving Galaxy Apps. He doesn't intend for Samsung's app store to replace Google Play, which boasts more than 1 million apps and wide adoption. Instead, Galaxy Apps will be more selective, and focus on apps that take advantage of Samsung's unique products or features, such as the S Pen stylus on the Galaxy Note line of big-screen smartphones.
It's also important that the apps and media run seamlessly on every device. At the Samsung-hosted event in New York, Pleasants said the company's streaming-music service, Milk, will run not just on smartphones, but Web TVs and wearable products as well. He also stressed that he doesn't just see Galaxy Apps as an app store, but a potential new platform.
"We're going to focus on making our ecosystem hum and sing better than anyone else's," he said.
Pleasants acknowledged that Galaxy Apps hasn't been successful yet. The app store isn't easy to work with, and there are improvements needed in software development kits, application programming interfaces and general developer support.
The slew of Samsung apps that came preloaded on flagship devices such as the Galaxy S3 came from MSCA as well. Those apps have been the target of critics, some of whom have labeled them no better than bloatware, or useless bits of preloaded software that do little more than take up space.
MSCA will still make apps, Pleasants said, but it will pare down the number to a few that "are meaningful and move the dial." He admitted that some of the company's apps haven't had much success, and that Samsung would move away from them.
He wouldn't comment on how MSCA operated in the past, noting only that things have changed radically in the last three years.
"We intend on upping our game," he said. "It's gotten significantly better and it will continue to get better."
Update, 12:21 p.m. PT: Clarifies quote from John Pleasants, head of Samsung's Media Solutions Center America, or MSCA.