Thursday, September 2, 2010

Android-based Samsung Galaxy Tab gets a European launch date of mid-September, in Asia and the U.S. later

Waiting around for an Android-based tablet that can compete with Apple's iPad has been a frustrating experience as manufacturers tout their hypothetical products but never reveal an actual release date. Samsung put an end to all that by previewing their new tablet at IFA 2010 in Berlin yesterday.
Even iPad owners have been eagerly awaiting real competition for the iPad knowing that the only way they will get improvements to their tablets -- things like a front-facing camera to use FaceTime, for instance -- is if a real competitor arrives on the scene.

That time, at least for Europeans, will be mid-September, the time D.H. Lee, head of Samsung Mobile global sales says the manufacturer will appear there. Buyers in Asia and the U.S. will apparently have to cool their jets a while longer, though I can't imagine Samsung would want to miss the holiday season with this new device.

For a good rundown of the specs I would recommend this post, but the basics are that the seven inch screened device will run Android 2.2 (Froyo) for now, but will be upgraded to 3.0 in due time. The tablet will have a front-facing camera, as well as a 3 meg rear camera. The device is lighter and smaller than Apple's iPad, which means users may well use that rear camera, though frankly the fact that every cell phone now comes with a camera makes having one on your tablet less necessary -- though it could be useful in some video chat scenarios.

Spec-wise, Samsung seems to have built a competitive package, that is for sure. Its weakness, though, may end up being its sales strategy. Samsung's carrier partners will be the ones selling the device, whereas Apple depended on its web store and own retail stores (along with Best Buy) to conduct sales. Because of this strategy, pricing is currently unavailable. (Does this mean that this will be a subsidized product -- that is, a cheap to buy tablet that will require a data plan? The Guardian article on the preview speculates that the tablet may use a "two SIM" solution where the tablet will share a SIM card with a cell phone. Not a bad solution, assuming one wants to buy a cell phone from that carrier -- plus, this could limit any discounting of the tablet since the cell phone would get the discount.)

It appears unlikely that Apple will introduce an updated version of its orignal iPad until next spring, though there have been rumors -- so far with little evidence -- that a smaller seven inch model may be launched. So far most of the Android competition rumored or previewed has been at this small size. While consumers may like the smaller size for portability and game playing, media professionals, I would think, would prefer a larger pallet to work with. Desiging for a nearly ten inch screen has to beat designing for a small screen. On the other hand, since there is currently no competitive Android tablet attracting the attention of media app developers, moving from the smartphone screen to a seven inch screen might mean some developers simply develop one Android app for both.

The obligatory video demo: