Friday, 22 October 2010

What is Samsung thinking?

This is an interesting time for tablet computing fans, with the HP Slate (link) being announced today and a revised B&N Nook (link) supposedly being announced next week. Meanwhile, I'm still coming to the terms with the pricing Samsung announced this week for its upcoming Galaxy Tab.

I had a very strong negative reaction to the price, but I wanted to wait a couple of days to see how I'd feel after I had time to think about it. So now I've thought about it, and here's my reaction:

$600 for a seven-inch tablet?? Are you freaking kidding me? A whole netbook costs about $400. Why does it cost $200 extra just to remove the keyboard?

I don't understand Samsung's strategy. A $400 device is maybe an impulse buy for a rich person at Christmas. A $600 device is a carefully considered investment for most people, especially when all the most enthusiastic tablet buyers have already been siphoned off by Apple.

I got a chance to play with a Galaxy Tab at CTIA. The interface is very cool, but I kept asking myself what I'd actually use it for. What problems does it solve that you can't solve with a smartphone? Samsung appears to assume that Apple has created a market for generic tablets to do, you know, tablet stuff. But has it? Or has it created a market for iPads that seamlessly handle lots of content and unique applications?

And although the design of the Galaxy Tab looks nice, I think the ergonomics of it are questionable. Despite what Samsung's publicity photos show, the device is a bit too wide to hold comfortably even in my dinnerplate-sized hand. To hold it securely, I needed to put my thumb on the front of it. But the margins around the screen are so narrow, and the back case is so slippery, that I felt like I was going to drop it when I put my thumb alongside the screen. The weight of the device also put uncomfortable pressure on my thumb (it's a lever effect). My grip felt more secure and comfortable if I put my thumb on the screen, but then I would accidentally press icons and interfere with the interface.

Although Samsung likes to talk about itself as a leader, in practice it's usually a fast follower -- give it a device to copy and it'll turn out its version faster than just about anyone else on the planet. If the device sells, great. If it doesn't, Samsung just moves on to the next device. My guess is that's what it'll do with the Galaxy Tab.

I'm hoping for better from other new products, although I'm not encouraged by what I'm hearing about the HP device (for one thing, Friday is a terrible day to announce a product because your news coverage gets cut off by the weekend). But I'd like to get my hands on that one before I make up my mind about it.

(Note: This post was modified on 10/22 to correct the announcement date for the HP Slate.)

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