The company has a press event scheduled for March 22, on the first day of the CTIA Wireless trade show, which is to take place in Orlando, Fla. Based on the clues dropped by Samsung, the press conference will be used to debut its latest Android tablet, one with an 8.9-inch display.
Are three screen sizes really necessary?
Samsung obviously has faith in the tablet form factor, as it appears to have committed to bringing 7-inch, 8.9-inch, and 10.1-inch variants to market. The shotgun approach might work if Samsung offers the right mix of features and price points for these three products. This will be hard to balance, however.
Sizing up the competition, nearly all the devices fall into the 7-inch (PlayBook, Flyer) or 10-inch (iPad, Xoom, TouchPad) camps. The one that doesn't comes from Samsung's chief home-turf competitor, LG. LG's G-Slate tablet (eventually bound for T-Mobile) has an 8.9-inch display. By offering three screen sizes, Samsung will be able to compete against all these devices on at least one metric: screen size.
Competing on features and pricing will be more difficult. Devices such as RIM's PlayBook and HTC's Flyer offer a lot of bang for the buck despite their smaller screen dimensions. Samsung would do well to match the features offered by those products with future versions of its 7-inch tablet. The same strategy should be used to compete against LG's G-Slate tablet, which has the ability to capture 3-D video and display 3-D content.
More important than the exact feature set, however, is the prince point.
Samsung has already admitted that pricing its tablets to compete against Apple's iPad will be difficult. When it first went on sale, the 7-inch Galaxy Tab cost $600 unsubsidized. (The iPad starts at $499 for the 16-GB variant with Wi-Fi only.) How will Samsung price its 8.9-inch and 10.1-inch tablets? Will they be offered with carrier subsidies in addition to less-expensive, Wi-Fi-only variants? It doesn't help that RIM, LG and HP haven't provided final price points for their tablet products.
The year 2010 may have been the year of the iPad. I disagree with Apple's belief that 2011 will be the year of the iPad 2. With all these tablets primed to hit the market in the next few months, the tablet market is really just starting to take shape -- be those shapes 7-inches, 8.9-inches, or 10-inches.