Partners Cheer Samsung's Newly Named Mobile Leader

Samsung partners applauded the company's decision to appoint a new mobile division head, D.J. Koh, to help bolster the company's struggling smartphone sales and drive mobile innovation.

Koh, whose appointment was announced as part of Samsung's annual year-end reshuffling, will replace longtime director of mobile products J.K. Shin, who led the South Korean company's mobile division for the past six years as it developed its trademark Galaxy 6 and Galaxy Note smartphones.

More recently, however, Samsung smartphones have been under increased pressure from other vendors, partners say, particularly as smartphones face rapid innovation, higher battery life and more competitive prices.

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"Year over year, adoption of Samsung mobile products is down based on several product introductions, including the S6, which did not meet consumer expectations," said Jay Gordon, vice president of sales at Enterprise Mobile, a Plano, Texas-based Samsung partner.

"In order for Samsung to hold its dominant position in the Android space, and attempt to take away some of the share Apple enjoys, it will need to introduce smartphones, tablets and wearables that offer significant differentiation, in the form of device features, battery life and price, as examples, that convince consumers that their platform truly is a step ahead of the competition."

Samsung did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

According to Samsung, Koh previously oversaw the development of Samsung's Tizen mobile operating system and the company's mobile payment system, Samsung Pay.

The change comes on the heels of disappointing sales of the upgraded Galaxy S6 and the curved-screen Galaxy S6 Edge, released in April.

Analysts speculated that the launch, led by Shin, failed due to limited supply of the Edge models, which did not keep pace with demand for the new curved handset, leading to a 38 percent drop in profits for the company's mobile division in the second quarter.

Beyond that launch, Samsung has been struggling to keep a foothold in the smartphone market, as competing vendors like Apple put pressure on high-end demand while entry-level smartphone manufacturers like Xiaomi and Huawei drive competition from the low end.

In the second quarter of 2015, when Samsung's Galaxy S6 models were released, the company's smartphone sales dropped 2.3 percent from the same quarter last year, despite the company's lead as the world's top smartphone manufacturer. Smartphone sales from other vendors, like Apple, grew significantly during that same quarter.

Solution providers said the executive shuffle is key to keep Samsung in line with its competitors, such as Apple and Huawei.

"Samsung needs to change it up a bit… A move like this could change momentum for Samsung in its smartphone business before the declining profits and market share over the last couple of years reaches a tipping point," said Douglas Grosfield, president and CEO of Five Nines IT Solutions, a solution provider based in Kitchener, Ontario. "New thinking, with new energy, can present great results for a company bold enough to embrace the tough prospect of a change in leadership at this level, so Five Nines, like many other MSPs and VARs, looks forward to the opportunity that will come for our businesses and those of our clients, as a result of Samsung replacing the head of its mobile business unit."

Another challenge Samsung faces in its mobile business is in the enterprise division. While Samsung has created security platforms such as Samsung Knox, the company must still continue to improve its products in the enterprise space, say partners.

"Across the enterprise, Samsung is limited in its traction based on slower adoption of Android in corporate settings," said Gordon. "The introduction of security products, such as Samsung Knox, have not solved the concerns that enterprise customers perceive with the Android platform, and Samsung will need to continue to supplement the core Android operating system with tools and content valuable in enterprise environments in order to achieve broader adoption and penetration of Samsung products in that space."

While Shin will step back from day-to-day operations, Samsung said he will remain with the company as a co-CEO.