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.)

7 comments:

Andrew said...

>>>But I'd like to get my hands on that one before I make up my mind about it.<<<

Having read this blog for a number of years, I'm confident in saying that if your conclusion isn't "it runs Windows and therefore it's bad", I'll eat my old m100.

BTW, there was a pretty big event recently in the mobile world - this thing called Windows Phone 7? Maybe I missed your article on it...?

Michael Mace said...

Ouch!

I don't have anything against Windows itself (it's what I'm using right now), but you're right that I've never been impressed by the Tablet PC software. And my initial thought is that if HP isn't even putting the Slate into retail, that kind of tells you what its confidence level is in the product.

In tablets, though, I think a lot depends on the feel of the device, and you just can't get that from the pictures. And I'm intrigued by the thought of Web OS on a nice piece of tablet hardware...

As for Windows Phone 7, same story as the Slate -- I need to get my hands on a device and play with it for a while.

10 said...

Why does it cost $200 extra just to remove the keyboard?

>> believe it or not, only folks in the US (and/or Europe probably?) think of $600 price tag is outrage. In Asia, all phones and tablets are never cheap. For example, HTC Desire costs $735 in Thailand, around $935 for HTC HD2 while you can grab similar devices for $550 or less in the US; unfortunate for all Asians. Galaxy Tab is the first I find price tag is roughly the same all over the places.

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.

>> I don't see any difference between Kindle and Galaxy tab in term of size. Also, I would say iPad is a bit too big and heavy to hold comfortably although it's not as slippery as Galaxy tab. No such thing as ergonomics since iPad, probably only Motion Tablet PC thinks of this, but that doesn't sell well either.

Keun-young said...

600$ is really too much for 7" tablet. In general, expensive tablets should be powerful enough to replace laptop, both in S/W and H/W. But I have not seen such tablet which can replace my laptop yet. Cheaper tablet can make sense, but it should be much cheaper compared to netbook to really appeal to mass.
I cannot persuade my wife to buy us an iPad as my family already owns too many gadgets: smartphones, iPod, netbook, laptop, tablet PC, and etc, and my wife always challenges me: What are new nice things we can have with 500$ price tag?
600$ for 7" tablet which does not have something special? No way.

noneway said...

If you think a normal company about Samsung, that's huge illusion. http://nyti.ms/ctLnWN

Samsung is the world worst crime-syndicate.

AG said...

For the manufacturers the time will come soon when having both mid-range featurephones and smartphones will be an unnecessary investment in maintaining separate platforms, since the hardware of the mid-range featurephone is perfectly capable of running the smartphone OS. Not too long after that the same will be true for all but the cheapest of phones. So almost all phones will be smartphones, not because the user necessarily wants this, but because that's all that will be made. The question really is not whether (almost) all phones will be smartphones, but only when.
(At this point at the latest the US carriers will have to either give up on their plan/phone bundling, or make data a feature of all plans.)

Michael Mace said...

I agree with you, AG. But having a smartphone doesn't make you a data user (look at all the Nokia S60 users out there).