Samsung Galaxy Tab, HP TouchPad Push iPad-Conquering Strategies

Samsung and Hewlett-Packard are pursuing software updates and price cuts in hopes of establishing a beachhead against the Apple iPad.

Apple will seize some 61 percent of the tablet market this year, according to a new DigiTimes report.

That prediction comes just as Apple's rivals seem to be scrambling for any sort of competitive leverage against the iPad juggernaut. DigiTimes also expects Apple to ship some 25.5 million iPads in the second half of 2011, which would represent a 76 percent rise from the first six months of the year.

One of those rivals, Hewlett-Packard, is busy slashing the price of its recently released TouchPad. First, it took $50 off the sticker price, and for this weekend only, the tablets are selling with an additional $100 rebate. Earlier in August, HP pushed an over-the-air software update to the TouchPad designed to tweak many of the issues cited by reviewers upon its initial release. But actual sales of the tablet, which runs the company's proprietary webOS, remain in question.

Another rival, Samsung, has skinned its Android-based Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet with a TouchWiz UX interface. With tweaks that differentiate it from cookie-cutter Android design, and large tiles capable of displaying live information, TouchWiz feels like Samsung's attempt to differentiate the Tab 10.1 more fully from the other Android tablets on the market. It also includes some business features such as on-device encryption and full support for Exchange ActiveSync version 14, which could help with the device's appeal to enterprises and small businesses considering tablet purchases for their workforces.

But will price cuts and new software give tablets the beachhead they need to eat into the iPad's market share? Companies like HP and Samsung evidently hope so. Throughout the summer, Research In Motion has also offered a steady stream of updates to its 7-inch PlayBook tablet. All of these contenders are also seeking to differentiate themselves from the waves of Android tablets due to hit the market over the next several quarters, including Sony's S1 and S2 and Amazon's unannounced but heavily rumored offerings.

Meanwhile, the iPad continues to attract users. A new study from IHS suggested that, among all the tablets currently on the market, Apple's tablet attracted the highest levels of consumer satisfaction, followed by Zenithink (a Chinese manufacturer), Samsung, Archos and Motorola.

"With the iPad dominating tablet sales in the United States and worldwide," Rhoda Alexander, director of monitor and tablet research at IHS, wrote in a July 29 statement, "this high level of consumer satisfaction commanded by Apple represents a major barrier to entry for new competitors."

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