October 23, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Is Samsung Going Gangnam-Style on Apple?

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Samsung has papered much of this month’s television programming with an amusing send-up of Apple fan-people standing in line for the iPhone 5, which lacks some features already offered by Samsung Music Hub — most notably, its tap-to-share-playlists feature:

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That ad is funny and effective, to my mind anyway, but it’s not the whole story. World-leading, South Korea-based LCD display supplier Samsung says Apple will have to find somewhere else to buy displays for its devices, according to a widely-echoed Korea Times report. Forbes says this is just because Apple wants a lower price than Samsung wants, but given these companies’ legal sparring all over the world over Apple’s accusation that Samsung stole rounded corners and other design elements from its designs, it’s easy to see why others suspect that something deeper is likely at work here.

An anonymous Samsung spokesman now tells the Wall Street Journal that Samsung did not in fact stop selling displays to Apple for its laptops and iOS devices. Maybe it just wanted to raise the idea that such a thing is possible, to give Apple something to think about.

Another scary prospect for Apple, in addition to the display blacklist: Samsung is the world’s leading supplier of flash memory and SSD (solid state drives) — the flash memory found in the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, iPod Mini, iPod Nano, and MacBook Air, as well as NAND and DRAM chips. Reuters reported that Samsung was pulling two chips from the iPhone 5 back in September.

Even if the display cut-off was only sabre-rattling, or even a completely fallacious report that fooled publication and analysts all over the world on Monday, it appears that Samsung has some newfound Gangnam-style swagger and is unfriending Apple, which could lead to even higher prices and lower supplies of Apple products. Even without the ongoing Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit, it’s odd that Samsung is Apple’s biggest supplier, as well as its biggest mobile electronics competitor.

Apple has been accused in the past of deliberately under-manufacturing devices to give the impression that they are in short supply due to excess demand. We sincerely doubt that, because what company doesn’t want to sell its products? However, given Samsung’s reported pushback on chips and displays, Apple products could have another very real reason to fall to back-order.

South Korean singer Psy says his megahit “Gangnam Style,” as far as the dance is concerned, is a simple matter of “It’s a horse-riding dance — so there is an invisible horse, and you’re on it.” The word “Oppa” that proceeds it is apparently used to refer to an older brother or boyfriend, and Gangnam is a wealthy neighborhood, reflecting Samsung’s status as the “older brother” that has supplied Apple with several crucial ingredients for its devices over the years and continues to do so in some areas.

Based on available evidence, we conclude that Samsung could in fact be going “Gangnam Style” on Apple via its ads, and possibly by squeezing  its supply lines, too.

Who is the horse, and who is the rider? We should find out soon, as things play out in the courtroom and the boardroom.

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