Samsung CEO Lee Kun Hee Warns Employees About Increased Competition

Samsung Electronics may currently be the world’s leader in sales of mobile phones and TVs, but chairman Lee Kun Hee has told employees that the Korean company must watch its back and continue to innovate in new business, as competition increases and the global economy continues to drag.

Bloomberg reports that in a speech given today, Lee said:

There’s an ongoing competition by global companies across all areas from products, technology development and hiring talented people to patent disputes. The market is big and opportunities are wide open, so we should find out new businesses that Samsung’s future will hinge on.

Over the past year, Samsung has been locked in a battle with Apple to become the world’s top smartphone maker. In the third quarter of 2012, Samsung’s Galaxy S3 overtook the Apple iPhone 4S to become the world’s best-selling smartphone model, according to Strategy Analytics, but that’s not enough to placate the famously competitive (and tax-evading) Lee. In 1993, irritated by Samsung’s reputation as a “second rate” manufacturer of cheap electronics, Lee ordered company-wide reforms and told employees to “change everything except your wife and kids,” a tactic that clearly worked as Samsung became a multinational conglomerate responsible for a fifth of South Korea’s GDP.

Though Apple and Samsung are currently comfortably ensconced as the top smartphone makers in the world, competitors that are slowly but surely clawing their way up the leaderboard include China’s Huawei and Sony. Huawei is expected to present a 6.1-inch smartphone at CES, tapping into consumer hunger for ‘phablets’ (devices that are combinations between phones and tablets) whetted by Samsung, while Sony just finally revealed that it is capable of making a sexy, high-end Android phone after paying only cursory attention to the smartphone market.

So how does Samsung plan to stay on top in 2013? For starters, it plans to ship 20 percent more mobile phones this year than it did in 2012. In addition to Android handsets, the company will also offer Windows 8 devices and smartphones equipped with Tizen. Furthermore, the company is  expected to be the first to ship flexible displays next year, ahead of competitors like LG, Sony and Nokia, who are also working on their own squishy devices.