Tablets investigate

Samsung reboots tablet strategy, beats iPad on price

Samsung dominated the first day of CTIA Wireless 2011 with its announcement of two new tablets that could finally give the Apple iPad a run for its money.

Samsung has changed its tablet strategy and this time the company has an approach that is a lot more competitive with the Apple iPad on price, form factor, and overall features. We'll have to wait until we do a full review of the new Samsung devices to decide if the overall product experience approaches what Apple has to offer, but since the Samsung tablet doesn't arrive until early summer and will be running Android 3.0, that gives Google time to repair the Honeycomb problems we saw in the Motorola Xoom and it gives developers time to write a lot more tablet-optimized apps for Android 3.0.

On Tuesday, Samsung announced its plans in Orlando at the CTIA Wireless conference -- the wireless industry's biggest event of the year -- stealing the spotlight for day 1. The Samsung sign below greeted attendees on the first full day of the conference and foretold the company's tablet strategy.

Samsung's CTIA sign telegraphed its tablet strategy. That is... 7, 8.9, 10. Photo credit: Jason Hiner

The Korean tech giant is switching to a three-headed tablet lineup. It will keep the 7-inch Galaxy Tab as its leadoff batter, but it's realized a tablet that small only appeals to a niche audience. Plus, when Samsung released the Galaxy Tab last fall it priced it too high - roughly $100 more expensive than the entry-level iPad.

The two new tablets that Samsung announced at CTIA have nailed the price tag. One is an 8.9-inch model and the other is a 10.1-inch model and both are priced at or below the entry level iPad. The 8.9-inch is aimed at consumers and its Wi-Fi version starts at $469 for 16GB. The 10.1-inch tablet is aimed at enterprise business professionals and it starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version.

At those prices, the Samsung devices could be the first tablets to siphon customers away from Apple. Samsung is the only other company right now that can compete with Apple in terms of designing and manufacturing most of the parts for its tablet, so it's no surprise that it's the first company to offer a comparable product to the iPad at a similar price. Samsung also has a strong consumer brand (from its TV business), a tablet form factor slightly thinner than the iPad, and an online store for purchasing books, music, and other types of media (to compete with iTunes).

The other smart thing that Samsung did with its tablets is to focus on the needs of business professionals -- the unsung catalysts that have powered a lot of the iPad sales so far. In the 8.9 and 10.1 tablets, Samsung has included hardware encryption, Exchange ActiveSync, built-in Cisco VPN client, and integration with Citrix, Sybase, and SAP software. Those steps will go a long way toward making these tablets palatable to business pros and IT departments.

Naturally, it's not all good new. The new Samsung tablets have a similar plastic body to the existing Galaxy Tab devices. Next to the metal iPad, the Samsung tablets feel cheaper and less substantial. Samsung has also chosen to layer its TouchWiz UI on top of Android Honeycomb. I think that's a big mistake. In testing the software at CTIA, the tablet version of TouchWiz looks just as blocky and clumsy as the versions that run Samsung's Android smartphones. The company would have been better off just sticking with stock Android -- especially since so much UI work has already gone into Honeycomb.

To get a closer look at the new Samsung tablets, see the two slide shows below.

Photo galleries

Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, 10.1 hands-on

Samsung TouchWiz UX for tablets

Also read

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

28 comments
'techy'
'techy'

If you look at the bottom picture, you'll see that the charging/connector port is on the bottom side of the landscape position. You can't even work with it plugged when propped up. This is a huge overlook for Samsung. I just purchased an Ipad2 and it has all the same software, of course you have to buy a couple on the app store, and the UI is the best out there and my wife has a samsung phone with the same Samsung UI interface, and it sucks, it laggs very badly, all we have is problems with it, so bad that its her 3rd phone in a year all because of the Samsung UI interface. This thing would have to have ton's of horse power to facilitate their crappy interface.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Are not undercutting the low end of the iPad by enough - I agree with riverodel on this. Maybe with retail discounting you can get it down to $399, but I think even that is going to be a hard sell. These devices should be in the $250-$350 range. I just can't beleive the competition can't get it together on these things. I notice it still has the proprietary Samsung connector in the promo shots. Why copy the Apple model down to the things that are *disliked* about the Apple products? Until a *quality* Android tablet can do what a cheap Coby Kyros can do *out of the box* - it seems like a 6 of one/half a dozen of the other argument on if iOS or Android devices are the better bet.

techrepublic
techrepublic

While it's too early to sing high praises for Samsung, it's definitely compelling that they've produced something that "looks" like a quality build at a price comparable to the iPad. They definitely have the mojo to do it... but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I agree with Jason that forcing TouchWiz on the user is a mistake. This just sounds like a marketing decision gone awry. Samsung is new to the computer interface game... Apple isn't. Google is still not a device interface giant, but three years into Android and they know a thing or two about user experience. Samsung needs to recognize that they are not Apple and should not try and force a toaster experience on users when they really don't know what they're doing yet.

riverodel
riverodel

A few coins less? You must be kidding. If the price for a comparable-featured Samsung tablet is about 25 percent less, maybe.

JJFitz
JJFitz

Since my Droid automatically changes display in landscape with the charger up top or down at the bottom, I am assuming that the Samsung can do the same. No?

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Coby has a general reputation as a cheap, throwaway item that you're lucky if it survives it's 90-day warranty. Great if you're willing to replace it frequently, but not something I'd want to trust any long-term data to.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... that Google hasn't, that I know of, actually created the GUI, only the platform beneath it. HTC, Sanyo, Samsung, Motorola, they all are creating their own interface, though the Xoom interface was created in partnership with Google. On the other hand, since I don't use an Android device, I really don't know how much difference there is between Motorola's Xoom 'Honeycomb' interface and Samsung's TouchWiz. If they're very similar, then your argument fails; if they're notably different, then your argument succeeds.

htaylor
htaylor

Just replace the Samsung junk the same way that I did with the HTC Sense UI on my desire and run a preferred launcher. I for the most part like adw launcher. I am anti-Apple and will admit that my opinions are biased; however, the iPad/Pod/Phone UI is extremely lacking in functionality and Multitasking ability. This makes the user experience a bit tedious. And to me the price points on all of the tablets have been a bit pricey. At least Samsung is making an attempt to appeal to a broader range of consumers.

Komplex
Komplex

Sorry, Iphone killer. I mean, Ipad killer. One of the things the tech media and others continually underestimate is how the device feels in the hands. According to the article "The Samsung tablets feel cheaper and less substantial." The author is a guy who's been practically begging for the industry slap that smirk off Steve Job's face. If I'm spending $500-1,000 for any item, I'm willing to pay an extra $100 for something that doesn't feel like it was made on the cheap.

JJFitz
JJFitz

Apple is usually pretty steadfast with their pricing with the exception of lowering prices on their old models when the new one comes out. If they do lower the price, I don't think they will reimburse the difference to anyone who already bought their iPad2 like they did when they overcharged for the iPhone.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

It's still called a win. :-) In a world where nearly everyone is having a tough time meeting or beating the price of the iPad, the fact that Samsung has done it is significant.

dcolbert
dcolbert

5.9 times for the price of a top end iPad. But I agree with you - Coby certianly doesn't have the reputation for build quality that Apple does. My review even called out this fact about Coby - which makes the build quality of the Kyros MID7015 all that more remarkable. For a cheap, low-end "throw-away" Android gray-market tablet - it is a really well done product. This is probably why Coby has such aggressive plans for a broad line of Android tablets in 2011. For most people, that 6:1 price difference *should* be something they consider carefully, though. Will the Coby, with warts and all, do enough for a 6th of the price of the competition? Is it worth paying a 6x premium for whatever it is that Apple (And Motorola) deliver that the Kyros doesn't? Those seem like questions that are really worth asking yourself before you drop $900 on a tablet.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Still going just fine. Cheap isn't always a bad thing. its too bad modern OS's and programs are so freakishly bloated, we had GUI'd OS's and programs with full feature sets running on 33mhz processors and 8mb of RAM no problem. The features haven't really increased that much, just the bloat.

dcolbert
dcolbert

There are a few little annoying things about the device - but I'll tell you what... I got a 9 Cell battery for my Lenovo S-10. That delivers iPad like instant-on, long battery life availability - but with all the advantages of a Netbook (keyboard, full web experience and native apps). This has put my Coby on the back-burner for many of the roles I was using it for. The truth of the matter is that a full web-browser PC experience is richer for most social media. I contribute content wherever I go, and tablets and mobile devices discourage that. They encourage consumption. So the Coby has been relegated to games and eBooks, largely. And in this case, the 7" format is superior to the 10" format - which has put my iPad even further on the back burner. In fact, that has convinced me to hold off on a Xoom or other 10" Honeycomb tablet to wait for a 7" Android tablet. It has to deliver these things: Battery life, front/back cameras, SD, standard USB (it can be a mini or a micro) and USB host, with a stock Android UI and capacitive touch screen - with a decent and modern CPU (Nvidia dual core), and beat Apple's prices. If that can't be done, then Android can't compete with Apple. My daughter is the primary consumer of my iPad these days. Which is about appropriate, it is a great device for a 9 year old kid who primarily consumes content (although, the majority of KIDS sites are still Flash based, so she has to bust out a real PC to go to any of her favorite interactive sites). Consider this a little preview of blogs to come. I'm doing some experiments with the viability of these devices right now. :)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Don't they ship a stock Android image at least for use with the Nexus product line? I thought they'd have some standard UI in place on that. Maybe it's different from the stock UI that was in place with earlier Android VM images? (I honestly don't know so I'm asking here not pulling threads)

RockerGeek!
RockerGeek!

...but I have no problems going from a blackberry, to an android, to an iOS based device. I hit snags at Apple-based stuff b/c i'm not as fluent in them as I am other OS's... but I have not considered the mac/ios environment to be "lacking in functionality". They all have their idiosyncrasies, but they're all pretty easy for me to use.

JonGauntt
JonGauntt

Multitasking should be a dead issue, as that was added almost a year ago on all devices. I'm sure this keeps coming up because people keep reading old posts, but that is no longer a rallying cry. As for interface, I am not sure how you can make a sweeping statement that it is "extremely lacking in functionality". When you can take a device straight out of the box and hand it to a kindergartner and they can use it, there is obviously a well designed UI in place. In fact, I would argue that the UI is what has made Apple into the rising tech company that they are today. It is simple, elegant and allows for a lot of control. Maybe best of all, you don't notice the UI on modern Apple hand-held devices. Well, as long as you run well built apps. That has been the largest discrepancy, and I'm sure the gap is at least as wide on the Android side.

stephen.holland
stephen.holland

Given my 18 month old daughter can use my iPad/iPhone and can't use my wife's Android device, I would have to believe that it is the android UI that sucks... Have you actually used iOS recently? I seem to be able to multitask on my iPad/iPhone just fine - but maybe I am missing something...

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... considering you specifically state your anti-Apple bias. Explain, please, how the iOS UI is "extremely lacking in functionality..." I understand the multitasking argument, I'm asking about the rest of it.

JJFitz
JJFitz

Why not a "competitor"? BTW: Anyone can throw a leather case on it to make it "feel" better. More importantly, how does it compare in specs?

JonGauntt
JonGauntt

Considering the difference in distribution that Apple and Samsung have, it will be interesting to see how long they can maintain that price level.

JJFitz
JJFitz

about bloated software. It drives up the overhead (processor requirements, storage, memory, etc.). Most people can get away with WordPad (which comes with Windows OS) but it is difficult to convince users of that. When my children were in grade school and had to write a report, they would get hung up on formatting (choosing a font, color, margins) and lose focus on the most important part - the content. Sadly, that happens in the workplace all too often. I taught my children to write their drafts in WordPad to reduce the distraction. How do you tell users that a simpler text editor is probably adequate without insulting them? It's like telling people that they would be better off walking to the corner store rather than take the Hummer. :)

dcolbert
dcolbert

FOSS software has bloated too - trying to keep up with the Jonses. Compiz eye candy is *bloat* - but you've got to have it to compete with Aero, Spaces and Expose. Additionally, MS Works was rejected by consumers. It wasn't feature set, it was file compatibility - that drove MS Office dominance. I also think the claim that the bloat is unnecessary is over-simplified. Many of the features that have introduced bloat are relatively transparent. But if you go back to an early generation GUI based OS/Desktop, you'll quickly notice what is missing. Modern devices like the Atrix and the iPad 2 are 1Ghz+ dual core processors. These aren't 68000s or 80486 processors. They're at least on par with first generation P4 processors, and arguably better. Our mobile devices have significantly more power and storage than our desktops did just a decade ago. Now... I think there is an argument that we don't NEED all of this processing, graphics and storage horsepower for a majority of what we do - and I think iOS, Android, MeeGo, Jolicloud, Chrome and other platforms illustrate this. I think we're in the middle of a dramatic change, and it is very difficult to see or understand exactly what is happening at the moment. But I don't think that the traditional, bloated, desktop OS will go away (or needs to). I think we'll have more choices, more tools, that are more appropriate to one goal or another, on the other side.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Well, more so an attribute of proprietary retail software though software produced through other methods are not immune. You can fine bloated open source also. Here's my thinking on this though; the proprietary pattern is leaks before release to start building hype. At release, you get a huge profit spike with initial sales until the market saturates; everybody has it so no one is buying it. From the point of release, your employing call centers and such to support the software along with developers shipping updates. The entire life of that program version must be supported by the initial profit spike with some supplimental income form things like service contracts. Now, when the market becomes saturated, you need to ship a new version and start the cycle over. The initial leaks about the future version kill the existing version's sales; who wants to by the old software when the new version will be out in a few months. For all those who already bought, you have to justify them spending on the new version to get that nice big profit spike that's going to fund the new version's lifespan. This is done by spritsing up the UI and adding some new features, a new file format or whatever you can point at. The result is ever version adding something to market rather than something actually needed. The bloat is a marketing requirnment put in place to drive the new profit spike. This is contrasted to rolling distros or service funded software as FOSS tends to be. You don't release a new superfluous version every six months to restart the profit spike cycle; you keep evolving the current version and derive a steady profit margin from related services; support, customizations, task specific extensions. You don't have to drive a profit spike every six months by differentiating a new version from the old. You don't have to drive your customers into synthetic obsolescence with things like new file formats incompatible with older versions. In short, the core motivation of proprietary retail software makes bloat a natural attribute of the product. A proprietary software company that does not keep justifying that new version purchase doesn't remain a proprietary software company.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

No matter the brand, the OS has managed to get grossly outsized to the point that machines that could once get by on a tiny, slow processor can't even begin to run the newer versions, yet our smart phones and tablets, which are little more than those old desktop specs in new cases, are doing just fine with brand new apps. Yes, even the software is grossly oversized for what most people need. MS Office, Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, all far more program than is needed by the average person using them; not everybody is a pro, but when that pro software becomes the standard by which everybody needs to operate, it simply goes too far. Remember Appleworks? Microsoft tried to match that with MSWorks--and built it into a monstrous thing that's overpriced and grossly overloaded for even the majority of the enterprise users. Much better if added capability could have been offered as a plug-in enhancement. Photoshop? Who remembers PS 2.0 or 2.5? Clean, simple, relatively easy to use and not overloaded with so many 'creative' enhancements that it became unmanageable. It's nearest competitor was Paint Shop Pro at a fifth the price and that program did just as much. Final Cut Pro? Well, I use Final Cut Express because it does have some capabilities more than iMovie--but prior to that I used ProShow Producer which was smaller, easier and offered more variety. The one thing I did like about Final Cut was that you could buy separate enhancement packs from a third party, but now those are gone--somewhat incorporated into the Pro version of Final Cut. Interestingly, with the introduction of the iPad, Pages, Numbers and Keynote offer the majority of the Office necessities in a pretty compact package and even Adobe has a pretty nice looking Photoshop app available. Now, with the iPad 2, we get a pretty fair video editing app in iMovie, though since I haven't loaded it in either my iPhone 4 or my iPad (not a 2) I can't speak to the look or quality of it other than noting certain professional music videos I've seen created on one. And going back to the Coby, I won't argue that sometimes you can get lucky with one of their products, but I, personally, don't know anybody who has.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

This is one of the things that really irks me about the Idevices; no you can't take it out fo the box, hand to a kindergartner and watch them have at it. You must first pair the Idevice with a desktop or laptop running Itunes and prove yourself worthy to be a product owner. Until then, you can't do anything but push a slider and dial 911. I was rather surprised with the first Iphone I had to activate; no other mobile phone has ever needed pairing and activation before it can be used. At most, you pop in a SIM and hit the power button.. unless it's Apple. (This is based on the phones, not sure what pre-pairing limitations are placed on the tablets.) In terms of UI, I do agree though also. It's simple enough for my little one to have figured out easily and manages to do everything the device is factory-capable of doing so I can't really see where it's lacking. I don't work with it every day either though so maybe other's have run into deficiencies (they'd need to explain those shortcomings though rather than just suggest that they exist).

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

.. I'm actually more surprised that the comment was so tame. Usually "I'm bias.. but" is a qualifier for someone going all out on a rant.