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Samsung Devices, Clinton Get ‘Oohs,’ ‘Ahhs’ At Keynote

LAS VEGAS — Samsung president Dr. Stephen Woo gave a terrific International CES big-stage keynote but was overwhelmed by the star power of another president — William Jefferson Clinton.

The 42nd president of the United States spoke passionately about the power of technology to help people around the world — especially the poor. Clinton also tackled gun control, climate change, healthcare challenges and the American political scene in 15 brief minutes.

He was there in his role as head of the Clinton Foundation and as an ambassador for the Samsung Hope For Children Foundation, which supports children’s education and health-related issues, particularly in Africa. He received a standing ovation at the end of his remarks.

Since this is the 2013 International CES, Woo spent the pre-Clinton portion of his presentation discussing innovative technology, especially in his role as head of Samsung’s Electronics device solutions division.

His engineers create the chips and other components that drive many of today’s top-selling gadgets, including smartphones, tablets and the Samsung Galaxy camera.  The overall theme of his speech was “mobilizing possibility for all the world’s people.”

Woo noted there are 6 billion devices in use around the world, and last year half a billion smartphones were sold. “Look at what you can see around the expo floor here at Las Vegas. You can see the babble of innovators has intensified but the center of gravity of our industry is — and remains — mobile devices.”   

He spoke of the three critical elements his division was working on most intensely: processing, memory solutions and display technology. Woo not only spoke about the present but brought “oohs” and “ahhs” from the thousands in attendance when one of his team demoed a bendable OLED screen designed for smartphones that actually worked.

Woo stressed this was not a dreamy prototype but soon to be a real and available technology called Youm Flexible. One of the devices shown actually had a curved edge so you could read a one-line message without opening the cover of the phone. They also showed foldable and stretchable screens in a tongue-in-cheek video. 

In fact, later in the presentation, Eric Rudd, chief technology strategy officer of Microsoft, showed a Windows 8 smartphone that used Samsung’s Youm Flexible technology.

In another humorous segment, which had the audience laughing out loud, a video with a portentous voice warned of the overwhelming amount of Internet video that was swamping the world’s servers — and blamed it all on cats. At that point, a few minutes of funny feline videos entertained the crowd. This led to Woo discussing Samsung’s efforts to speed up global servers and making them more energy efficient. Trevor Schick of HP’s server division described how HP and Samsung were working together to make this a reality.

As Woo discussed “where the magic happens” in device components, he paused to let eight women in form-fitting costumes dance on stage. What this had to do with smartphones was a bit inscrutable but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Woo then announced a new processor that would be incorporated into the next generation of mobile devices, called Exynos 5 OCTA, built in conjunction with ARM. Glenn Roland of EA Games had one of his team members demonstrate “Need for Speed, Most Wanted” on a tablet with the chip; the HD video was very smooth.

Warren East, CEO of ARM, described how Samsung and ARM were collaborating in order to create higher-performance processors that use less power, meaning extended battery life, a critical feature for any mobile device whether it’s a smartphone or tablet.

Microsoft’s Rudd also came on stage to discuss how Samsung and his company were working together for the Surface tablet and products to come. His video gave a sample of alternative reality gaming, a technology envisioned by Microsoft researchers.

Then it was President Clinton’s turn, and it was great to see the 66-year-old former president at International CES and that he still had the charisma that helped him get elected twice to the most powerful office in the world.