Samsung’s biggest challenge now is Google software, not Apple hardware

It’s an occupational hazard among gadget geeks to fixate on new hardware, and yesterday’s introduction of the gorgeous Galaxy S8 by Samsung made that easier than ever. I could write for days about how pretty and pleasant that new handset is. But I also notice that the traditional competitive narrative of my smartphone versus your smartphone is starting to fade out of relevance. Samsung may still measure its mobile ventures by the iPhone yardstick, but its bigger challenges these days are coming from Google’s suite of connected services. Yes, the same Google on whose Android shoulders Samsung’s Galaxy S8 stands.

To appreciate the importance of software today, ask yourself what was more disruptive: Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant or the Echo speaker that was its first home? Is it Snapchat’s social sharing or the Spectacles camera-glasses that Facebook is trying to copy to death? And, as nice as the Nintendo Switch hardware may be, isn’t it the marvelous Zelda: Breath of the Wild (and the promise of more excellent Nintendo games) that’s pulling in the majority of new customers? Hardware serves as the foundation for each of those experiences, but it’s in the software that the biggest changes and revolutions happen. Software and the services it enables will be the thing that keeps Samsung going once all of its design and hardware optimizations have been tapped out.