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Samsung aims to be no.1 in laptops – we talk to the top men in Seoul

We visited South Korea to see where our 'Ultimate' laptop was born and find to out what's coming next from a bullish Samsung

The Samsung Series 9 won our Ultimate award back a couple of months back, and still sits at the pinnacle of Windows laptops. It’s quite simply the most desirable laptop money can buy, and is a clear step ahead of the many competing Ultrabooks. Furthermore, the current model is a huge leap forward from last year’s Series 9 laptop, being both an incredible piece of engineering and of design. It’s all the more impressive, given that Samsung was a very small player in laptops only five years ago.

Samsung Series 9
The new Samsung Series 9 – our most recent Ultimate award winning laptop

With our plaudits already bestowed on the Series 9, we were happy to be invited by Samsung to Seoul, South Korea to meet the men behind the machine. Here we talk to the senior executives behind the Samsung success story, the engineers who made the Series 9 possible and the designers who made it look stunning. We’ll break down just what goes into making an award-winning laptop, and also take a look at what Samsung will be bringing us later in the year when Windows 8 launches.


Seoul feels like it was largely thrown together in the last twenty years, with little concern for planning considerations or appearance. Many of the world’s least-appealing high-rise buildings must be here, sitting side-by-side with newer, sleeker counterparts. The high-density sprawl seemingly goes on forever, with 23.6 million living in the Seoul metropolitan area. And they all seem to like driving, day-or-night the streets are full of traffic, and even after decades of strong economic growth the appetite for more is almost tangible.

Samsung Series 9
Seoul is certainly at its most striking after dark

While Japanese electronics manufacturers, such as Sony and Panasonic, have struggled recently, with tumbling share prices; South Korean companies have gone from strength-to-strength. Samsung Electronics and other well-known Korean brands such as LG, Daewoo, Kia and Hyundai all prospering. We’re not going to get into the nitty-gritty of economic policy here, but a high percentage of GDP is spent on R&D, there are big export incentives from the government and the average working week is 20 hours longer than that of the Germans. All of which have all done their bit to propel Korea and Samsung to success.

Samsung Series 9
South Korea has become synonymous with its massive conglomerates – of which Samsung is the largest

And that success is huge, Samsung is now the biggest seller of mobile phones in the world, and the biggest seller of TVs – with approximately 300 million and 45 million sold respectively in 2011. In doing so it has outsold long-term top dogs such as Sony and Nokia. HD TVs and smartphones have been big business over the last few years, as radical changes in technology transformed our CRT TVs and basic handsets into something more appropriate for the twenty-first century. While the super-slim HD TV and smartphone have become the defining products of consumer desire, PCs and laptops have had a rough ride comparatively; so we were a little surprised when Samsung’s Vice President of Marketing Won Park-Costof told us that Samsung had been: “Focused on TV, focused on mobile, but the next ten years is going to be focused on PC.”

The top people at Samsung are serious about laptops it seems, though this strategy isn’t anything new. The company has been pushing out good quality products at competitive prices for some years now. We fondly remember the long-running Q330 and the company’s excellent range of netbooks, such as the Samsung N120 – which won awards as far back as 2009. Such laptops helped Samsung raise its worldwide sales from just 1 million laptops to 10 million laptops in just five years – between 2005-2010. However, the company is now changing tack and aiming squarely at the high-end of the market with an eye to challenge the likes of Apple, Sony and Dell – and the Series 9 is at the forefront of that push.

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