Samsung's first tablet computer, the Galaxy Tab, will go on sale in two weeks -- joining the Dell Streak and a slew of Google-powered pads, all trying to turn up the heat on the Apple iPad.
Global handset vendors and PC makers including Nokia, LG Electronics and Hewlett-Packard are moving into the new category of devices, between traditional PCs and smartphones, taking a cue from Apple. Dell said last month that it too was launching a new tablet, the Dell Streak, to U.S. customers.
"We see huge potential for this kind of product," YH Lee, head of marketing at Samsung Mobile, told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the IFA consumer electronics fair. The Galaxy Tab, with a 7-inch screen, will go on sale in European markets in mid-September. The device, which uses Google's Android software, offers access to books, films and music.
"Samsung is betting big on the tablet category with this device," said Ben Wood, research director at CCS Insight, adding the success of Galaxy Tab, which is clearly smaller than iPad, which has a 9.7-inch screen, will depend on pricing.
Samsung's portfolio management director Thomas Richter said prices would depend on operator packages in different countries, but the device would cost more than high-end smartphones.
In Finland the suggested retail price for Galaxy Tab, without subsidies, would be 949 euros ($1,214), well above the iPad's price.
Apple's 32GB iPad sells for 864 euros ($1,109) on average in Finland.
Samsung said all key European operators selling Samsung phones were set to also offer the Tab to their clients, and several major carriers would sell it in the United States.
Last week research firm iSuppli forecast the iPad would account for nearly three-quarters of worldwide tablet shipments this year, and hold at least 70 percent of the market in 2011 and 62 percent by 2012.
Samsung said the market was far from fixed yet.
"The market opportunity is wide open," said YH Lee.
MANY MORE ANDROID TABLETS
Toshiba's tablet will use an Nvidia processor and Google's Android operating system. Huawei said its first tablet, a 7-inch screen also running Google's Android software, would reach consumers in Europe in time for the holiday sales season.
"The device would cost 300 euros, or less," Huawei Devices marketing chief Victor Xu told Reuters in an interview -- that's less than $400.
Xu said the company's next tablet would have a 10-inch screen and reach consumers next year. Huawei has decided to focus on using Android software, he said.
"Key for Huawei is that it's an open standard and not controlled by some dinosaurs," Xu said.