Samsung saw Steve Jobs’s death as a business opportunity

Remember those Samsung attack ads against Apple that tried to deflate the company's pop-culture prominence? Now we know where they came from.

According to court documents obtained by AppleInsider, Samsung execs reportedly feared that Steve Jobs's death in 2011 could take attention away from the impending launch of its Galaxy S II. So, reversing an earlier decision not to go after Apple publicly, it kicked off an anti-iPhone marketing blitz.

The e-mails — which were introduced as evidence in an ongoing patent trial between Apple and Samsung — show Samsung officials deliberating over Jobs's death as a business opportunity.

"We need to take advantage of this chance," wrote Dale Sohn, then the president and chief executive of Samsung Telecommunications America, according to AppleInsider.

Michael Pennington, who was then Samsung's head of sales, replied:

Unfortunately, Steve Job's [sic] passing has led to a huge wave of press coverage of Apple's and iPhone's 'superiority,' all created by the, 'passionate, tireless, perfectionist...' The point here is the there is an unintended benefit for Apple, since the external messages by 3rd parties are all highlighting and/or supporting the consumer perception that Apple products are superior, since Jobs' was such a visionary and perfectionist. What consumer wouldn't feel great about purchasing a device developed by such a person.

Neither Apple nor Samsung immediately responded to a request for comment.

Samsung had hoped to take Apple down a peg by urging Google to publicly criticize or challenge Apple, according to AppleInsider. But when Google refused to do it, Samsung reconsidered its strategy — until Jobs's unexpected passing created a crisis.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications and the Internet. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.

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