You might never have known anything was wrong if you were at Samsung's midtown New York City unveiling of three new additions to its lineup of Galaxy-model devices.
Indeed, Samsung reps were only too happy to reveal the new Galaxy Tab 8.9--the Galaxy Tab 10.1's "slightly smaller sibling," as Samsung director of product planning Shoneel Kolhatka put it in his introduction--and the Galaxy Player 4.0 and 5.0 handheld devices. Samples of the devices drew a curious and enthusiastic crowd, and many of the attendees walked out with Tab 8.9 loaner units to review.
But all this took place in the largely-unacknowledged shadow of yet another tech giant: Apple.
Previous iterations of the Galaxy Tab and Galaxy S phones have drawn Apple's ire and sparked legal action in 12 countries around the world. These battles are still ongoing, with Apple asserting that Samsung has violated a number of its design and technology patents.
Reverberations from those rumblings have come ashore in the United States as well. The International Trade Commission is reviewing pending litigation over the Galaxy S, which has sold over 10 million units worldwide. Apple also plans to take Samsung to court in California by July 30, 2012, where Apple has filed suit against Samsung for "slavishly copying" Apple's products to create "products that blatantly imitate the appearance of Apple's products to capitalize on Apple's success."
Samsung hasn't let any of this stop it from moving forward with new iterations of the challenged products--especially the Galaxy Tab--and has vowed to fight Apple in court whenever they are challenged.
I spoke with Kim Titus, director of public relations for Samsung Mobile, about the possible impact of these legal actions on the U.S. market. He avowed that despite the court and ITC actions looming, "Nothing is impacting our sales here in the U.S. right now. We'll certainly abide by the law, but we are still planning to launch product and not hold back."
When asked if legal action would affect future work in the Galaxy line, he replied, "We're going to have to let the courts sort that out."
The devices themselves are slick enough to make even Apple fans look closely. Apart from its snappy interface, dual-core processors, the inclusion of the Android 3.1 ("Honeycomb") and Samsung's multimedia hub software, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 boasts other features that are also a draw for IT managers. It sports out-of-the box support for Cisco WebEx and Exchange ActiveSync 14, on-device encryption, remote tracking, and remote wipe. It's hard to see Samsung as not wanting people to sneak this into the office (and later receive their IT department's blessing to do so). The Galaxy Player, essentially a stripped-down Galaxy S sans the phone components running Android 2.35 ("Gingerbread"), was equally attractive.
But if Apple prevails in court, it might be able to damage Samsung's ability to not only sell but support the Galaxy Tab. Apple has already amended its California complaint against Samsung, expanding its scope and harshening its language. If Apple wanted to damage Samsung's inroads into corporate IT even further, it could ask that Samsung be forbidden from offering support as well as sales for any of the offending devices.
Apart from its countersuits and court action, Samsung's strategy for all this seems simple: Act like nothing's wrong. Let's see how long that lasts.
Serdar Yegulalp is a Long Island, N.Y.-based writer who has contributed to InformationWeek, the original Windows Magazine, and many other tech publications present and past. Follow him on Twitter (@syegulalp) and email him at [email protected]