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Samsung Mobile Channel Chief On The Galaxy Note9's Best B2B Features

Samsung executive Mike Coleman told CRN that the forthcoming smartphone can help to solve a number of problems for businesses.

Samsung's B2B Push

In the hyper-competitive field of mobile devices, Samsung is standing apart with its focus on meeting the needs of businesses. And the device maker is building a robust base of solution providers to bring Samsung's new products, such as the forthcoming Galaxy Note9 smartphone, to customers. That's the message from Samsung mobile channel chief Mike Coleman, who sat down with CRN at the Note9 unveiling last week in New York. The 6.4-inch Galaxy Note9 features increased battery life, the ability to easily connect to a display (using Samsung's DeX software) and an enhanced S Pen, which lets you use the stylus as a remote control for apps such as PowerPoint. The launch of the Note9, which ships Aug. 24, follows other business-focused devices released by Samsung this year such as the Galaxy Tab Active2 tablet, which is sold exclusively by channel partners. "We think it's a true differentiator for Samsung to be mindful of the needs of the business customer -- which in many cases are very different than the needs of the consumer," Coleman said.

What follows is an excerpt of CRN's interview with Coleman.

How is your push going to expand with solution providers?

We are doing really well. We are well ahead of plan at the moment, and tracking for north of plan for the year. We are experiencing very sizable growth. In fact, we'll about double the business this year over last year in revenue. How are we doing that? We have three go-to-market models. One is the NSP [national solution provider] -- CDW, Insight, Connection, PC Mall. We have the geo partners, based in six U.S. geographies. Those are the MSPP [mobility solutions provider program] partners. That's the second leg of the stool. And then the third leg is e-com, for customers that want to buy indirectly, such as through Best Buy for Business.

Where we're seeing the most growth is in the geo partners. And so we have six reps who are dedicated to working with the geographies. So we're seeing sizable growth there. We're on track to about triple that business, the geo business, year over year.

Have you seen an increase in partners who are building new mobility practices by working with you?

Yes -- new mobility practices, or those that had mobility practices [and have been] strengthening those with Samsung. We had a goal in mind for this year to sign mobility solution provider partners, and we are more than halfway toward the goal. We're actually ahead of our target to sign [agreements] with those partners. We're investing in them, investing in MDF, investing in venues [for events]. The growth is on the back of those partners, but with the technology like you saw today. We were on a delegation tour where we took some select partners and we showed pre-announced technology to them, to get their feel and their feedback on, how does this technology really work in the business environment? Because that's what it's all about. It's the B2B side of it, as opposed to the B2C. The feedback has been excellent. In fact I was just talking to Brian Sipe, who heads up Vertex Wireless, one of our key distributors. And his feedback was that this is the most powerful phone for the enterprise that he's ever seen. It's really a compelling value proposition, because we can now work with our partners with a campaign that I'm going to call "leave your laptop at home" -- with the DeX connectivity, and with the S Pen.

What makes these features compelling for businesses?

We actually did all of our presentations [during the delegation tour] with the S Pen. It just wows the audience -- it's really an interesting, innovative solution. I can't wait for the SDKs to be released into the ecosystem, to be able to start to really develop things well beyond what we've even thought of for the S Pen. We take this tool, and now we can solve business problems with it.

We focus primarily on financial services, health care and retail, where we think we have the best early traction. From a sales force perspective, say in financial services, we've now armed their sales force with a device that allows them to truly leave their laptop at home. With hoteling options, they can plug it into a DeX port, and now they can use their local monitor. As they're traveling they can plug it into their hotel TV, can plug in at airport lounges, and so now all they're carrying is their phone.

From a health care perspective, the opportunities are pretty interesting, in terms of their ability to plug in at nursing stations to be able to view patient records.

Do you expect more traction for the Note9 with B2B than previous phones?

Yes. The true differentiator now is the B2B component. So what are the elements of the Note9 that are interesting to business? Certainly some of the foundational elements, like the longer battery life, which is huge for business. The screen size. The S Pen is a true differentiator. That combined with DeX allows you to have that seamless flexibility inside and outside of the office. Then when you marry that with specific solutions for health care, retail, financial services, I think you're going to see a tremendous amount of traction.

Is there a bigger opportunity for unlocked phones with the Note9?

We think so. In the channel, we're running a big push for unlocked for Note9, because the business-to-business capabilities are significant. When you pair that with our offer of free, three-year break-fix [service], it's an unbeatable combination for a channel partner to be able to sell a Note9. We offer that [service] as part of a package for, essentially, free. You get the screen protector, the case and three years of free break-fix through an authorized warranty repair center uBreakiFix. It's a tremendous differentiator for our channel partners to be able to promote unlocked phones in the premium category.

Overall, is there an acceleration for Samsung designing business features into new devices? Is Samsung taking even more consideration of business?

From my viewpoint, yes. The Tab Active was the first true B2B-specific platform, and now there's the Note9, which has all of this B2B functionality in it. In the conversations we're having back at headquarters, with folks that are actually building future products, we are making sure we stay front-of-mind for them in terms of B2B solutions.

We think it's a true differentiator for Samsung to be mindful of the needs of the business customer -- which in many cases are very different than the needs of the consumer. So you're really trying to solve business problems that involve technology that's familiar at the consumer level, but so much more powerful at the business level.

Has the Galaxy Tab Active2 resonated well with the market?

It has. We've seen significant interest. We're building tremendous pipeline with the Tab Active, inside of our small, medium and enterprise customers. In business, the sales cycle is a little bit longer than in consumer. Customers have to test it, evaluate it, proof of concept. But at the early stages we've seen tremendous adoption.

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