Where most of us saw the death of Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, as a time to mourn, Samsung's senior U.S. team saw it as "an opportunity" to begin direct attacks against the iPhone.
What's interesting about this is that when Jobs died, Samsung CEO Cho Gee-sung said:
“Chairman Steve Jobs introduced numerous revolutionary changes to the information technology industry and was a great entrepreneur. His innovative spirit and remarkable accomplishments will forever be remembered by people around the world."
This wasn't the only tribute the company paid to the passing of Apple's leader -- it also cancelled an Ice Cream product launch originally scheduled for Oct. 11.
“We believe this is not the right time to announce a new product as the world expresses tribute to Steve Jobs’s passing,” Google and Samsung said at that time.
Vice chairman Lee Jae-yong, at the time COO of Samsung (and former CEO of Samsung Electronics), was one of the select few who attended the private memorial service for Jobs on October 16, 2011. He worked closely with Jobs, who reportedly explained the iPhone to the Samsung exec by disassembling it for him.
However, even while Samsung's public face mourned Jobs, some of its leaders saw the death as an opportunity. The company's then-U.S. sales chief Mike Pennington reflected this within highly confidential documents revealed during the current trial:
"Steve Job's [sic] passing has led to a huge wave of press coverage of Apple's and iPhone's 'superiority,' all created by the, 'passionate, tireless, perfectionist...'
"The point here is the there is an unintended benefit for Apple, since the external messages by third parties are all highlighting and/or supporting the consumer perception that Apple products are superior, since Jobs' was such a visionary and perfectionist. What consumer wouldn't feel great about purchasing a device developed by such a person."
"Sorry to continue to push this issue, but I have seen this far too long and I know this is our best opportunity to attack iPhone."
Members of the U.S. team evidently saw the death of Steve Jobs as a prime opportunity to attack Apple and its iPhone, approving an anti-Apple ad even while the company CEO issued his tribute and its COO put the memorial service in his diary.
While Jobs lived, Samsung policy was not to engage in directly critical advertising, but this restriction was lifted at around the same time as he died. Such a change in policy must have been taken at the highest levels of the company.
This begs the question, did Cho Gee-sung agree to this policy change even as he remembered Jobs', "innovative spirit and remarkable accomplishments"? Had Lee Jae-yong approved the move even as he walked into the memorial service?
I find it difficult to believe senior management were unaware of the decision, particularly in light of the long-standing relationships between Jobs and Samsung's biggest leaders. If they were aware, then was it ethical for them to mourn Jobs so publicly given they saw Apple's loss as such an opportunity?
Perhaps this is yet another reason Apple seems so unwilling to end litigation against its former partner.
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