Samsung wants Android apps that stand apart, starting now

New software tools and a developer confab highlight Samsung's push to offer something different from all the other Android device makers. Think multiscreen.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
3 min read
Curtis Sasaki, the Samsung executive in charge of its Media Solutions Center America business, talks about the big opportunity for developers at the company's conference in San Francisco. Shara Tibken/CNET
SAN FRANCISCO -- Samsung on Monday rolled out five software development kits to make it easier for developers to create apps for its various devices.

The new SDKs include one for multiscreen capabilities and another for multiscreen gaming. Samsung also streamlined its mobile SDK, released a new version of its smart TV SDK, and updated its enterprise SDK.

The SDK releases highlight Samsung's push to offer something different from all the other Android device makers. It's also part of Samsung's effort to work more closely with startups and boost its software and service offerings. The two areas have been a weakness for Samsung versus rival Apple, and the company has said it wants to build its capabilities by partnering with companies who specialize in the areas. It opened its Media Solutions Center a couple years ago to focus on software, while its Open Innovation Center will cultivate relationships with startups.

To help the push, the South Korean company is hosting its first developer conference at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco's Union Square neighborhood. The conference, with about 1,300 developers attending, kicked off Sunday and will last through Tuesday. Sessions encompass the various parts of Samsung's business, from mobile to TVs and home appliances. Some specific panel topics include S Pen, wearables, enterprise security, and NFC.

In the case of S Pen, thousands of developers started writing software to take advantage of that capability after Samsung released its first Note phablet, said Curtis Sasaki senior vice president of Samsung Media Solutions Center America. They viewed it as a way to set their apps apart from others in the Google Play app store.

"When we talk to developers, they're trying to find that differentiation," Sasaki told CNET. "When it comes to new SDKs, these, even for Android developers, allow them to look at differentiating their applications."

The multiscreen SDK is based on technology from Samsung acquisition MOVL. It lets developers key into APIs for one-touch discovery and pairing of devices for easy sharing between various gadgets.

That particular SDK is a key part of Samsung's longer term strategy to build an ecosystem. The company controls a wide variety of electronics, but the devices so far don't really talk to each other. Samsung itself has released some features that connect its devices, such as the WatchOn app, but it still has some way to go before its work together seamlessly.

"The question everyone is asking is what is the next big thing for developers," Juan Pablo Gnecco, senior director of Samsung's Media Solution Center America, said during a presentation at the developer conference. "The answer is TV. But TV is not alone. Today the living room is full of devices, it's truly multiscreen."

The Galaxy Note 3 includes a stylus known as S Pen. CNET
The gaming multiscreen SDK, meanwhile, is built on top of the multiscreen SDK. It allows game developers to create "immersive gaming experiences" that people play on any big screen TV using a Samsung smartphone as a console.

The streamlined mobile SDK combines 10 individual packages such as the third-generation S Pen. Other APIs in kit include media control, professional audio, and gestures. In total, there are more than 800 APIs in the mobile SDK, Sasaki said during a keynote at the developer conference.

The enterprise SDK allows developers to build secure apps to boost the "bring your own device" trend in the workplace. Samsung has placed a big emphasis on courting business users for its devices. Over the past couple years, it has released features such as Samsung for Enterprise, or SAFE, which technology to make its devices more business friendly. It also recently launched its Knox security platform to make its devices secure enough for the U.S. Defense Department and other organizations.

Injong Rhee, senior vice president of Samsung's mobile communications business and head of its business user push, said the enterprise mobility market will grow about three to four times faster than the consumer market. That gives it a growth rate of about 35 percent, he said.

"This means a huge opportunity for device manufacturers like us because we're seeing consumer getting to saturation," Rhee said during Samsung's conference. "But we see a big jump in enterprise."

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Updated at 12:10 and 12:40 p.m. PT with additional details.