Apple 2.0

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We're working on a smart watch, too, says Samsung

March 19, 2013: 7:37 AM ET

Samsung's new strategy for battling Apple: Preemptive copying

385384707367FORTUNE -- You would think that after having been branded a serial infringer of competitors' patents that Samsung's management would bend over backward -- as it did last week at the Galaxy S4 unveiling -- to present itself as a true innovator with its own ideas.

But there was Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung's mobile business, telling Bloomberg -- the news outlet that reported last month that Apple (AAPL) had 100 engineers working on a smart watch -- that Samsung is doing the same.

"We've been preparing the watch product for so long," Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung's mobile business, told Bloomberg's Jungah Lee in an interview in Seoul. "We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them."

Apple, of course, has said nothing about making a watch, smart or otherwise. So far, all we have are press reports sourced by unidentified people "familiar with" or "briefed on" the effort.

For all we know Apple's smart watch is one of those dead-end projects Steve Jobs was famous for saying "no" too.

Meanwhile, keeping mum about future products is a practice that Samsung might consider imitating. Because if the South Korean manufacturing giant knows how to make a wrist-watch computer that people will buy by the millions, it should be selling it, not talking about it.

Marc Andreessen, speaking about Apple television, another project the company has never discussed and may never build, put his finger on what's going on.

"Once the television launches, everyone will scramble to copy it," he told a DealBook conference in December. "There's a pattern in our industry, Apple crystallizes the product, and the minute Apple crystallizes it, then everyone knows how to compete."

UPDATE: To its credit, Samsung has indeed been working on touchscreen watch products since at least 2009, when, as reader Steve R. points out, it released the Samsung S9110. Check out the link. The comments are priceless.

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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