Stick a fork in Apple, it's done

Samsung has stolen Apple's core in smartphones, smartwatches, even smart refrigerators. The era of Apple dominance is over

When Apple sneezes, millions of devoted fanboys still reach for their hankies. There are still hundreds of blogs slavishly devoted to everything coming out of Cupertino. Technology editors continue to bend themselves into pretzels putting iWhatever into headlines to bump up their traffic numbers.

But the day when we all sat around waiting breathlessly for Apple to create a gleaming minimalist future for us, available in white and titanium, are over. The iWay is no longer our way. And the new boss not at all like the old boss.

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It is now Samsung's world; the rest of us just click in it.

Samsung's steady rise

No matter what Apple unveils at its "special event" next week, it will be playing catch-up to the Korean electronics giant. Samsung may be the No. 2 smartphone maker behind Apple, but it's growing at more than twice the rate. The handwriting is definitely on the wall -- not to mention the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 "phablet."

I'm writing this in the press room at the IFA Berlin 2013 consumer electronics show, which should probably be renamed the IFA Samsung 2013 show. For the last three years, Samsung has chosen this venue to unveil its whizziest wares.

For those of us weaned on Comdex and CES, IFA is a definite change of pace. Many of the 27 convention halls at the sprawling Messe Berlin complex are filled with vast showrooms of refrigerators, dishwashers, coffeemakers, vacuum cleaners, and so on from companies like Siemens, Miele, Braun, and Dyson. Walking the show floor is like stepping into a photo shoot for Architectural Digest. Traditional high tech takes a backseat; this is home appliance porn.

The technology that is here, though, is dominated by Samsung. While other Asian tech giants like Lenovo, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic also use IFA to launch products, they're bit players. In this show, Samsung not only plays the lead, it has all the best lines.

While the Apple iWatch is still a rumor and the Pebble and other smartwatch vendors are locked in a battle to capture 0.01 percent market share, Samsung pulled the wrapper off its first smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear.

Likewise, while blogs continue to flog the rumor of an Apple HDTV, Samsung has been in the smart TV market for years. Want an OLED smart TV? Check. You want that OLED screen curved? We're on it. Ultra-high-def 4K displays? No problem -- would you like yours in 65, 85, 98, or 110 inches?

That's not including the Samsung refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, and other gizmos on display here. There is apparently no industry Samsung does not intend to dominate in its methodically earnest, cheerfully inevitable way.

Granted, not all of Samsung's ideas are winners. The company has a reputation for throwing oddball features into its products, just because it can. Samsung's curved OLED HDTVs, for example, are capable of displaying two different shows at the same time; viewers wear special glasses to watch one show and not the other (finally, a TV for couch potatoes who can't agree on anything).

Samsung sets the pace

Even if the Gear watch gets a "meh, who needs it?" reception -- it's mostly a secondary display device for Samsung's Android smartphones, after all -- it serves to establish Samsung as the one to beat in yet another category where Apple wants to play.

That's one reason why Apple has taken Samsung to court -- the battleground of last resort -- in a desperate attempt to stave off the inevitable. Apple seems destined to follow Sony down the road of a once-industry-defining company in decline. (Sony also unveiled a smartwatch at IFA. Quick show of hands: Does anyone give a damn about Sony any more?)

It's ironic to me that all of this is going on at the same time Microsoft was finalizing its $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia. It's like Microsoft finally decided it needed to be more like Apple, in command of both the hardware and the underlying software, if it wanted to survive in the mobile space.

It seems to me like it's aping the wrong company.

Has Samsung deposed Apple as the new high-tech king? Weigh in below or email me:

This article, "Stick a fork in Apple, it's done," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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