Samsung, LG Electronics, Motorola and other companies present at CTIA seem to be embracing larger tablet screens, the better to battle Apple's iPad 2.
ORLANDO, Fla.-Was Apple CEO Steve Jobs right about the
In October 2010, Jobs seemed almost gleeful as he denigrated
7-inch tablets as inferior to his 9.7-inch iPad. If you compare the diagonal
lengths of a 7-inch and 10-inch screen, he told analysts and media assembled
for his company's quarterly earnings call, you find the former is "only 45
percent as large."
Indeed, the latter half of 2010 saw the iPad's competitors
rushing to embrace the 7-inch form factor. Samsung, Dell, and Research In
Motion all had tablets that size in active development, if not arrived on store
At the time, Jobs also lobbed a few verbal artillery shells
"We think Android is very, very fragmented, and becoming
more fragmented by the day," he said on that same earnings call. "We also think
that our developers could be more innovative if they can target a singular
platform, rather than a hundred variants. They can put their time into
innovative new features, rather than testing on hundreds of different
Now flash-forward to today, and this year's CTIA conference:
nearly every company with a presence here seems to have a tablet ready to hit
the marketplace, but very few of them rely on that 7-inch form-factor that
previously seemed so popular.
T-Mobile's 8.9-inch G-Slate, manufactured by LG Electronics,
walks the line between those 7-inch models and the 9.7-inch iPad. It features a
1GHz Nvidia Tegra dual-core processor, 32GB of internal memory, and Google
Android 3.0 (codenamed "Honeycomb," and optimized for the tablet form-factor).
Samsung is also debuting two new models of its Galaxy Tab,
adding 10.1-inch and 8.9-inch versions to the original 7-incher in its
portfolio. These new Samsung tablets also feature Android 3.0, dual-core
processors, and an emphasis on lightness and thinness despite their larger
According to at least one analyst, Samsung is right to
embrace a larger form-factor.
"Both [tablets] are big improvements from the 7-inch that we
believe was a big misstep," Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga
Securities, wrote in a March 23 research note to investors. "In our view,
Samsung's Tab and consumer electronics portfolio stands out as one of the
better alternatives for users not interested in the Apple ecosystem, however,
we expect Apple to handily retain its lead."
While the 10.1-inch Motorola Xoom had its big debut at this
year's CES, it also maintains a sizable presence on the CTIA show floor.
Optimized with Android 3.0 and a dual-core processor, the device has been
touted by some as the first true iPad competitor.
All that being said, some companies continue to throw their
weight behind the 7-inch form-factor. On March 22, Sprint unveiled the HTC Evo
View 4G, a 7-inch tablet capable of operating on both 3G and speedier 4G
networks, and equipped with cameras capable of shooting 3D footage (the LG
G-Slate can also snap 3D images and video, hinting at a new trend in mobile
The HTC Evo View 4G relies on a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon
processor. Unlike the iPad and its Android-based rivals, the tablet also features
an HTC Scribe digital pen, which lets users draw and write on documents and Web
RIM's BlackBerry-branded PlayBook tablet, long in the
making, has also appeared at CTIA. In contrast to the other manufacturers'
full-bodied embrace of Android, the 7-inch PlayBook relies on a proprietary
operating system. RIM is likely hoping that its dual-core processor, paired
with a variety of multimedia features and multitasking ability, will appeal to
both consumers and BlackBerry's traditional business audience.
RIM's release date for the PlayBook is April 19, with a
starting price of $499 for the 16GB model. The 32GB model will retail for $599,
and the 64GB for $699.
But however advanced the PlayBook's capabilities, or how
much buzz it earns as a major iPad competitor, the tablet began its development
alongside first-generation devices such as the original Galaxy Tab. Subsequent
tablets-including the Xoom and the updated Tabs-seem much more inclined to
embrace a larger screen-size.
All these new devices face Apple's new iPad 2, which
includes a dual-core A5 processor, front- and rear-facing cameras, a 9.7-inch
capacitive touch-screen with 1024 x 768 resolution, and a body some 33 percent
thinner than the original iPad.
As Google Android 3.0 offers manufacturers a
tablet-optimized (and industry-homogenous) operating system, as Android
Marketplace expands its library of solid productivity and gaming apps, as newer
hardware such as dual-core processors makes tablets increasingly powerful, it
feels as if manufacturers such as Samsung and Motorola are stretching their
proverbial legs a little-and feeling that, with all these elements combined,
they're in a stronger position to charge head-on against Apple's dominance of
the tablet market.
Despite that dominance, Android may also be making some
headway. Recent data from research firm IDC suggests that Apple's share of the
tablet market fell between the third and fourth quarters of 2010, from 93
percent to 73 percent. That being said, however, IDC also expects Apple to
maintain a market-share between 70 percent and 80 percent in 2011, powered
largely by the iPad 2's performance.
The tablets present at CTIA suggest that Apple's rivals are
very interested in taking market-share of their very own-and many of them seem
willing to bet on a larger screen-size to do so.