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Samsung wants to own your first, second and third screens

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Over the past year or so, Samsung has tried to reward app makers for building exciting new experiences on its connected TVs, by introducing Free the TV Challenge app developer contests in different regions around the world. So far, that strategy has helped grow its app store to include more than 900 choices. But now Samsung is looking to extend its influence beyond just the TV with a contest aimed at apps that create converged experiences among multiple devices.

The latest version of the Free the TV Challenge is focused on apps developed to bridge the divide between the TV and mobile phones, tablets and PCs. By doing so, Samsung hopes to tap into consumers’ increasing use of so-called second-screen devices while they are watching TV. So far, that activity has mostly been limited to sending text messages to friends or commenting on social networks like Twitter or Facebook. However, a growing number of interactive applications are creating real connections between the events on-screen and the applications on devices that users are holding in their hands.

Creating interactive second-screen apps is also one way to promote sales of other devices that Samsung makes. While the contest will be open to any mobile or computer operating system — whether it be Android (s GOOG) or iOS, (s AAPL) Windows or Mac — Samsung is clearly hoping that some of these second-screen experiences will use the contest to create deeper experiences among its TVs and its own mobile and tablet devices.

In the same way that Apple’s introduction of AirPlay — which enables owners of both an iPad and Apple TV to stream content from their tablets to the big screen — has made a purchase of both products more compelling, Samsung believes that deeper integration between its products could give consumers more reason to buy not just a Samsung connected TV but also an Android-based Samsung mobile handset or Samsung Galaxy Tab.

With the exception of Apple, however, very few CE manufacturers have been successful with such a strategy. Sony, (s SNE) for instance, tried for decades to convince consumers to buy across its ecosystem of TVs, laptops, handheld media players and the like, with little success. That said, Samsung is in a strong position, with solid mobile products and a leading TV product line, to offer a compelling cross-device solution.

Interestingly enough, Samsung has already had some notable converged applications from previous app developer contests. That includes MOVL’s WeDraw, which enables users to create images on their mobile devices that can be seen on the TV screen and was the winner of last year’s challenge. Since then MOVL has gone on to create similar apps for Google TV and PCs.

More than just reaching a big audience of Samsung connected-TV owners, there’s a sizable cash prize for developers to compete for: First prize in the latest edition of Samsung’s app contest will win $100,000, as well as a 65″ TV priced at around $6,000, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and a spot at CES. Second and third prize will win $75,000 and $50,000 respectively, as well as a 55″ TV valued at around $3,500 and a Galaxy Tab 10.1 each.

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