The Tech Guru series features eight stories from some of Samsung’s printing experts, presenting their points of view in their respective fields. The series will show how Samsung printing products and technology – and those who develop them – embody the three core Samsung values: Smart, Fast and Reliable.
Today, the Smart UX Center is recognized as the market’s leading printing ecosystem, and is quite probably the only one of its kind to be powered by Android. To create it, Samsung developers had to embark on a ceaseless journey of innovation. From the initial launch of the Smart UX back in 2014, though to the addition of the Smart UX Mobile version last year – and even to the Printing App Center renewal of last week, Samsung developers have worked tirelessly to realize their industry-changing vision.
For our fifth Tech Guru interview, we spoke to Hyunsub Kil, of Samsung’s Software Development Lab 1. Kil has been the project leader of Samsung Printing App Center since its inception, and led the Android CTS (Compatibility Test Suite) certification project for the Smart UX Center. He shared the story of how the Smart UX Center attained Android certification, as well as the philosophy behind the Printing App Center – and even provided a glimpse into the future of the Smart UX ecosystem.
After joining Samsung in 2004, Kil was initially charged with developing solutions related to HDD and print job processing. In 2013, Kil began working on setting the specifications for the industry’s first Android UI multi-function printer (MFP) series, the MultiXpress 4 and MultiXpress 7 (MX4 and MX7). He also co-led the Smart UX’s effort to gain Android CTS certification from Google. After this, Kil assumed the role of Printing App Center project leader (PL), and led the initial development phase, as well as the recent renewal of the center.
Acquiring Industry-first Android CTS certification
As explained in part three of this series, the Smart UX Center boasts a powerful GUI. It also has user-friendly software development system, the Samsung Software Development Kit (SDK) for printers, in addition to its easy-to-use marketplace, the Printing App Center 2.0.
But many users are keen to learn the answers to the following questions: “Why is the Smart UX GUI so easy to use?”; “Why is the SDK so accessible to app developers?”; “Why do partners develop Smart UX apps instead of creating solutions for other printer platforms?”
The answers can be found with the fact that the Smart UX Center is based on the world’s most widely used operating system, Android.
In early 2013, Samsung Printing decided to create a tablet-like interface for its new range of MFPs. From this moment, the company realized it had the chance to create printers that would be both innovative and groundbreaking. By early 2013, Android OS already had 74.4% market share in mobile OS market with 850,000 apps available in its marketplace. Samsung realized that by developing an Android-based UI, it would be able to reach out to all these Android users and developers.
But there were many rivers to cross before Kil and his team could get the official Android seal of approval. First, they had to obtain Android CTS (Compatibility Test Suite) certification for the Smart UX Center. When they were first approached by Kil’s team, the Android CTS authorities expressed initial reservations. The journey took seven long months, the first three of which were spent on long conference calls, with Kil attempting to bring the Android CTS team around to his point of view.
Eventually, Kil’s persistence paid off, and the Android CTS team agreed to go ahead with the certification process. But more difficulties were ahead – and Kil was working hard behind the scenes to meet the CTS’ strict requirements.
While the Android platform comprised functions that were of great use to mobile and individual users, many of its functions were not suitable for application to printers, immobile devices used by large groups of people. Kil and his team had to work to remedy this discrepancy – without compromising the convenience of the Smart UX Center.
“It was a tough process, and the CTS team did not inform us of its final decision until just a few weeks before the Smart MultiXpress’ launch. I was so worried that Smart UX Center might not get certified in time. In the end, we made it. But it certainly was a tight call!”
From an App Download Portal to a Comprehensive App Business Support Center
Acquiring Android certification was only the first step in building what was to become a thriving Smart UX ecosystem. Samsung also had to provide apps and a marketplace for these to create a complete ecosystem. Because the Printing App Center was the first of its kind in the printing industry, Kil and his team still faced numerous challenges before their job was done.
Kil explained, “My team and others in the software development lab collaborated closely with Samsung’s mobile division to develop the App Center 1.0 and set up the application development process. At the time, Samsung’s Printing Business Unit was a manufacturing company that was taking its first step into a whole new world of app-related business.” (For more on the development of Smart UX app, keep an eye out for part six in this series – coming soon!)
After much effort, Printing App Center 1.0 went live in November 2014, coinciding with the launch of the Smart MultiXpress Series. The first installment functioned mainly as a download portal for Smart UX apps. It was not until the recent 2.0 renewal that the Printing App Center truly became an essential tool for both partners and developers.
The Printing App Center 2.0 has three main features that help dealers, developers and customers to reach out to one another.
My Catalog is an easy-to-use feature that allows dealers to build curated lists of recommended Smart UX apps and widgets into a catalog tailored to the needs of their business clients.
Smart Café is a communication platform that allows dealers, app developers and end-users to get in touch with one another.
Interactive Verification & Validation (V&V), meanwhile, is a page that allows app developers to check and communicate regarding the status of their apps during the V&V testing process. Information is offered in a straightforward, easy-to-understand manner, and lets developers monitor the usage status of registered apps.
Openness the Key to Success
Kil explained that the key philosophy behind the App Center’s renewal was the creation of a system-wide openness.
He said, “We tried to make the system more open and convenient so it would appeal to app developers and dealers. That’s why we simplified the V&V process in the Printing App Center 2.0. Everyone knows that V&V is necessary to ensure app quality and safety. But no developer wants to ping-pong with a verification process for, say, three months, before they can upload their apps onto the marketplace. A simpler verification process encourages app developers.”
Kil believes that the success of any ecosystem depends on how open it is.
“As more app developers create Smart UX Apps, and the number of verified apps on the Printing App Center increases, the number of dealers and customers interested in using our MFPs in their offices will also increase,” Kil explained.
Kil and his team have been discussing the possibility of building a payment system for apps in the center. Although the renewal has made communication easier between dealers, developers and customers through tools like Smart Café, the center still lacks purchasing functionality. In the current version, dealers or customers must approach developers if they want to purchase apps registered on the center – something Kil is now working on improving.
Kil concludes, “When the Printing App Center 2.0 is equipped with a convenient payment system, it will make business easier for individual app developers and small channel partners that don’t have app transaction knowledge. That is one of the values we cherish and strive to realize – we want to democratize business with better technology and platforms.”
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