Samsung Electronics Co.'s and Apple Inc.'s battle to dominate the world's smartphone markets has mostly been waged from their respective sides of the Pacific.
Now the South Korean tech giant is storming rival Apple's backyard, launching an aggressive expansion into California's Silicon Valley.
Samsung has opened a new innovation center in Menlo Park. A research and development lab is planned for San Jose. A startup incubator is cooking in Palo Alto. And then there is its most audacious undertaking: erecting a massive new semiconductor campus with a distinctive design destined to compete with Apple's proposed spaceship-like campus for the title of Silicon Valley's most distinctive architectural landmark.
The move by Samsung to broaden its footprint in Silicon Valley signals an escalation of its rivalry with Apple, as the two companies compete more directly for the same employees, investments and innovations. Beyond getting in a rival's face, Samsung believes its Silicon Valley expansions are needed to inject more entrepreneurial DNA into the bloodstream of a company known more as an innovation follower than leader.
"This is the epicenter of disruptive forces," said Young Sohn, Samsung's chief strategy officer, who is now based in Silicon Valley. "And I want to make sure we're part of those disruptions."
The relationship between Samsung and Apple is complex, to put it mildly. Samsung has long been one of Apple's main suppliers of components. Samsung has maintained a modest outpost in Silicon Valley for years that included its U.S. semiconductor headquarters, a small R&D lab and a venture capital office.
But in recent years, that partnership became strained as Samsung launched a line of new smartphones, led by the Galaxy, that run on Google's Android operating system. Those phones have made Samsung the world's leading seller of smartphones, though Apple remains No. 1 in the U.S.
Samsung's insurgency has raised anxiety among investors and analysts on Wall Street that the sun is setting on Apple's golden age. Apple has fought back by suing Samsung in courts around the world, contending the company's phones were iPhone rip-offs that violated a number of patents.
Still, the legal and marketing warfare hasn't slowed Samsung, nor dimmed its ambitions. The company wants to more than double its annual revenue to about $400 billion in the next few years, a target that would put it side by side with the world's largest companies, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
To do that, Samsung's leaders believe they must fundamentally transform the company's culture and strategies.