Samsung did something unusual recently when it launched its Galaxy Note line of tablets starting at 5.3″ and growing from there to a 10.1″ edition which was unveiled at MWC 2012 in Barcelona. What was perhaps most unusual was the hybrid nature of the smaller device, allowing it to be not quite smartphone and not quite tablet. The challenge with such a design is that you have potentially created a Jack of All Trades and Master of None or basically a tablet too big to be used with one hand and too small to be used effectively with two hands.
To some degree I see the smaller 5.3″ model appealing more to men because well men don’ generally carry handbags. Point being you can fit the smartphone which could have been conceived by Lane Bryant in your pocket and have ample surface area to work on.
Then there is the smart pen or S-Pen which allows special functions to be evoked like screen copy and more – expect new apps to take advantage of the S-Pen capabilities according to the company.
So think about it – with the Galaxy Note line, Samsung designed not only a new form factor in hardware but also brought back the stylus – the exact same pointing instrument which Steve Jobs and Apple thought wasn’t necessary.
Now it is way early to proclaim these devices a massive and lasting success in the market because the marketing push the company has been making is extraordinary. Witness the banner at CES and the pop-up booth in the middle of Barcelona at the time of MWC 2012.
Point being that such a massive marketing blitz could pump sales for a while but after a few million units the device will have to be really a “must have” to get to 10 and eventually 100 million in sales. Assuming this latter figure is even attainable.
For years I have asked, can anyone else other than Apple can innovate and recently, Samsung has shown it can. I should give credit to Asus as well – their Zenbook UltraBooks have raised the bar in laptop design as well.
But for much of the the rest of the tech space, design innovation is lagging – except perhaps at Sony. If Samsung can continue to take share in the market with the Note and other devices with non-Apple-like form factors, it will hopefully give confidence to the rest of the field that innovation and design are essential factors in being a successful tech company.
Disclosure: I own Apple shares