Sunday, October 10, 2010


Over the last week, I've made a transition from reading on the Kobo eReader destined to be a Christmas present to the Kindle3. Both are 6 inch (which is a lie, try 5.875 inches) devices devoted mostly to the art of reading. More on the Kindle3 later. What THIS post is all about is the new Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The Galaxy Tab is poised to finally be the first iPad stalking horse. It's going to plumb a niche thus far left untouched by the runaway hit Apple product. Instead of going toe to toe with the iPad at the 10 inch size the iPad debuted at, the Tab will try to be first and best at the 7 inch size that a LOT of people are touting as a market in need of a solution.

The reality is that 7 inch tablets/pads are cheaper to produce than 10 inch versions. Smaller screen size, and that alone can make up three-quarters of the cost of a portable computing device, less expectancy to be used for battery-gulping video than for the kind of things smartphones have become expert at and a size Android 2.x is more comfortable with.

That's the rub, I think. Android 2.x was designed by Google around the usual smartphone form factor, screen wise. The story goes that the litany of Android makers have found it doesn't scale well at bigger sizes. Not unlike the iPad, which WOULD run iPhone apps in zoomed out mode, but quickly had app manufacturers produce true iPad versions (for second sales in many cases). The blocky pixilated effect was a distant memory almost before people could complain about such poor aesthetics appearing on an Apple device.

The Android folk have found that even 2.2 doesn't even do as well at scaling up as the first-day iPads did with their access to all those iPhone apps. As as result, the expected wave of cheap and competitive Android answers to the iPad challenge has not happened. Oh, there have been a few to hit the market, especially in China and recently in Europe. But almost all have been met with desultory remarks and nobody has led the charge into North America. Yet. But that time is coming and Samsung is the one with the clarion call.

Check out the Samsung video on at YouTube. 

That's about as iPad as you can get without Apple's lawyers knocking on your door. There are three things to note, however, about this enticing package of Steve Jobs-free next gen hardware.

First, it's running Android and does NOT have access to the Apple Store. Obviously. One hates to think of living life ONLY by Steve Jobs' tenets, but sometimes being screened leads to less Wild West living that might accrue from the largely unmonitored Android market. Plus, there is a pretty decent profit path for good iPad app programmers. The Android market might suffer from belief that there is less spending power out there and some innovative programmers might bypass the Android market when deciding where to spend their time. In my opinion, the Android market WILL have the larger share eventually. But how soon will 'eventually' come to be?

This is a SEVEN inch device. It's certainly mobile, but not pocket-sized mobile. Well, maybe for suit coats and purses, but I tend not to wear the former and don't carry the latter. It's MORE mobile than the iPad, less, waaaay less, than a smartphone. I know from moving my Kindle3 around, it's a little large for my medium-sized hands to hold in my palm. You hold it on the edge. No accidents so far, but complacency will eventually set in. I'm worried about then. In some ways, the smaller factor makes me think the Tab is MORE likely to suffer a mishap then the larger iPad. The SIZE of the iPad almost REQUIRES constant care.

Lastly, I am concerned about the big unknown of the Galaxy Tab euphoria. Price. It's been rumoured to be just awfully high. All of us tablet-wanters have been holding on waiting for something made of plastic rather than iPad titanium. To have a slightly lesser battery than Apple's now OVER-performing of a promised 10 hours of life on a single charge. To not to have the software designed to infuriate, iTunes, as a needed part of their computer. All at a price well below the Apple premium charges. What if the Tab misses that last target? It's an important question, especially seeing as Christmas season is nearly upon us. And the Tab is bruited to be available between now and the Yuletide season. It's even being offered by BOTH Bell and Rogers here in Canada, the two silverback telecom gorillas in our midst. But nobody's talking price. And that's worrisome.

IF the Galaxy Tab doesn't hit this niche and hit it during the next two months, the niche will have a brand new competitor in the spring. And now, I'm not talking about the gang of Android tabs that IS coming next year. Nope. Apple will announce it's own 7 inch product some spring, to go with a updated version of the classic with built-in camera(s). At that point, the Tab's time might very well have evaporated.

Too cheap and the project fails to make the money back to pay off research, development and production costs. Too expensive and the sales don't materialize. Too long dithering over the sweet spot and the niche dries up. I don't envy Samsung at all. But there IS a chance to hit a home run and be first and best in a market that A LOT OF PEOPLE think exists.

But those people didn't ask ME. I have an eReader to handle that part of my life, and a PDA for the 'other' things I need at that size factor. And I could have a smartphone, too, if I wanted. All for less than the projected price of the Tab. Me? I want the 10 inch size because it offers things I can't get with the congregated hardware described above. I wish I had a non-Apple option, but I don't right now. I WILL next year. I just have to be patient.

Me, patient? Let the laughing commence. I will not buy an iPad. I will not buy an iPad. I will not ....

No comments: