At an event Wednesday in Lincoln Center in New York Samsung revealed its latest tablet, the Galaxy Note 10.1. The tablet itself is less noteworthy than the software on it. The software adds true multitasking with multiple apps on-screen. There is also a pen that makes many apps more natural to use. Adobe Photoshop Touch is included.
Creativity was the theme of the event, as the company declared that the new device opened "the new way" to do tablet computing. Earlier devices, said Samsung, are good only for content consumption, but fail at content creation. The Galaxy Note 10.1 has new features that enable content creation in ways new to tablets. Samsung brought creative professionals to the press event to describe how a few weeks of working with the Galaxy Note 10.1 improved their work processes.
Watch our video from the event:
The main features enabling and facilitating creation, and the focus of the event, are the S Pen; Multiscreen, Samsung's multitasking enhancements; and apps written specially for the new environment.
Like the Samsung Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Note 10.1 uses a pen, called S Pen, for input in addition to touch. But the S-Pen in the Galaxy Note 10.1 is pressure-sensitive, allowing the user to press harder for a thicker line in a drawing program. The bundled Adobe Photoshop Touch supports the use of pressure in the pen. The Galaxy Note is a hybrid phone/tablet, or "phablet"; the Galaxy Note 10.1 is not a phone.
The S Pen is not a simple stylus and does not use a conventional capacitive interface to the tablet. The interface uses electromagnetic resonance, a radio frequency technology used in pen tablets such as those from Wacom. No battery is needed in the pen, as weak energy is induced in it by a magnetic field generated by a sensor board in the tablet. The pen uses this energy to transmit a signal back to the board and that signal is used for location and other characteristics. The board is capable of recognizing errant touch input, such as when you accidentally lay the heel of your hand on it, and rejecting that input.
The S Pen also can be used for handwriting recognition, a feature the original Galaxy Note has as well. The software also can perform shape matching, in which basic shapes like polygons drawn by hand are recognized and transformed into regular shapes.
Perhaps the most revolutionary software feature in the Galaxy Note 10.1 is Multiscreen, a multitasking capability Samsung built onto the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS on which the Galaxy Note 10.1 runs. Samsung promised an upgrade to Android 4.1, a.k.a. Jelly Bean--the OS running the Google Nexus 7 tablet--some time this year.
Other tablet operating systems, including Apple's iOS, claim multitasking in the sense that more than one app can run at a time, but the user interface only allows the user to work with one app at a time. Multiscreen allows the user to have multiple apps on the screen, either tiled next to each other or in a popup window called popup play. Users also can drag and drop content from one app to another using the pen.
One demonstration showed the bundled Polaris Office on-screen with the mail application. The user dragged a graph out of Polaris Office into an e-mail message.
The first celebrity testimonial at the event came from Baz Luhrmann, director of Moulin Rouge! and an upcoming production of The Great Gatsby. He spoke of how the multitasking and collaboration features helped him work with his colleagues in a way that is more efficient and natural than ever before. He called it "a collage artist's dream."
The second testimonial came from fashion designer Zac Posen. Posen also praised the device's abilities for content creation and collaboration.
Samsung's other major theme was learning. It demonstrated interactive textbooks from Kno and the Barnes and Noble Nook app. It also described, but did not demonstrate, an app for the Galaxy Note 10.1 that turns it into a universal remote control for home entertainment systems.
The tablet itself runs on a 1.4-Ghz quad-core processor and has 2GB RAM. It includes a MicroSD slot, dual front speakers, and multiple codecs. A version with 16GB of storage costs $499; a 32GB version costs $549. It will be available Thursday at a large number of retailers, according to Samsung.