9/15/2010 12:10:00 PM
Dawn of the tablets
This year’s IFA show in Berlin was as big as ever, with exhibitors coming from across the globe to showcase the latest products and developments.
With so many announcements to be made, Mobile went along to find out what the talk of the town was at one of the technology industry’s biggest events. Everything from the latest high-end gadgets down to the most random mobile accessories were on show at the consumer electronics event.
But the key themes to emerge at the conference were the rise of tablets and the convergence of devices, especially the transfer of visual data between mobile phones, TVs and computers.
Samsung kicked off the all-star tech line up with a raft of announcements, including a presentation of its new tablet, the Samsung Tab. The Korean manufacturer’s announcement didn’t come as surprise to many delegates, as the news had been leaked online ahead of the official presentation.
However, the announcement does represent Samsung’s first steps into the tablet market, a new segment for the electronics manufacturer to concentrate its substantial resources.
All the big guns from Samsung attended the event, outlining their plans for the future of the tablet market. Samsung confirmed that it will be launching more tablets in the future and that the Tab would be hitting the European market in October.
The Tab, Samsung’s Android tablet running on Android 2.2, has been touted as the tablet to rival Apple’s iPad. But Samsung was keen to distance itself from comparisons with Apple’s flagship device, highlighting aspects of the product that do not feature on the iPad, such as video conferencing capability and voice functions.
The Tab can also be upgraded to the next version of Android when the update is made available.
Responding to questions about similarities between the two products, WP Hong, Samsung Mobile’s head of product planning, said: ‘The Tab has no features or specifications that are weaker than the iPad. We expect a lot of consumers to use the video chat function.’
Samsung has set a benchmark for other manufacturers trying to establish themselves in the Android tablet space by launching a tablet running on the latest version of Android, with the capacity to upgrade
to the next level.
From a UK perspective, Samsung has been gearing up for this for a while, explains Samsung senior product manager Carey McGregor.
McGregor says: ‘This [the tablet market] is a new category for us, and Android is key to us at the moment. The success of the Galaxy S has lifted our presence within the smartphone segment. Samsung is getting a good reputation with the Galaxy S and the Galaxy Tab is the start of the story in tablets.’
However, price ranges are yet to be announced and Samsung is relying on the operators to take up the tablet and create tariffs, especially
for the Tab.
McGregor adds: ‘Different networks are treating the Tab differently; voice communication has to be a differentiator. We are expecting there to be a wide range of tariff plans for voice, as well as data. I would imagine the networks will create tariffs for the device.’
More tablets to come
Samsung was not the only manufacturer at IFA extolling the virtues of tablet computing. Chinese manufacturer Huawei also had a significant presence, taking up a large chunk of the telecoms hall.
The company’s latest devices, from variants of its Mi-Fi hub to handsets and tablets, were all on show.
Huawei’s tablet is similar to the Samsung Tab in that it has a seven-inch screen and voice capability, but it will run on Android 2.1 rather than the latest version of the platform. Despite the new tablet being on display there was no firm date or prices given for when it hits the UK.
However, sources suggest that Huawei is not planning on a major change in strategy and the tablet will be aimed at the mass market with a price tag to match.
The major point of contention at the event was that tablet pricing was not readily available, which makes it difficult for business people going to the show to plan ahead for the coming months.
One German mobile dealer says: ‘I come to IFA to find out what’s going to be coming up in the next few months and to get a first look at products that I have heard about, but won’t be coming out for a while. The Samsung Tab looks really good and I’m sure that I will be looking to sell it, but I’m disappointed not to find out the price.’
Samsung and Huawei were not the only manufacturers to announce a tablet. Toshiba also entered the emerging market, launching the Toshiba Folio 100 tablet.
The Folio 100 is another Android tablet running on 2.2 and a non-3G version will be available in the UK from October for £329. The 10-inch tablet has 16GB of memory, a 1.3-megapixel webcam and applications such as Toshiba media player, Fring and Document to Go pre-installed. A 3G version of the tablet is expected to be announced at a later date.
Although tablets were the talk of the town, there were many other mobile events and developments taking place at the IFA. But tablets undoubtedly stole the show, with the Samsung Tab the leader of the pack. With all the hype around tablet computing, tech enthusiasts were keen to finally get their hands on actual products.
However, other mobile companies present included Sony Ericsson, Nokia, HTC, LG, RIM and distribution giant Brightpoint.
Brightpoint was also located in the telecoms hall, with a stand to rival Huawei’s, while its official partners showcased their products off the stand.
IFA had even organised its own mobile apps tour, re-enforcing a message that had been emanating from manufacturers throughout the show – content is as important as ever.
Other highlights from the show included the launch of the first Android TV from People of Lava Sweden, which continued to push the emerging theme of device convergence.
Elsewhere, LG announced a multimedia sharing service, which allows users to transfer content from their handsets to compatible devices.
Overall, it was another year of technological innovation, and from a mobile perspective, tablets were the big thing at the IFA. It is now just a waiting game to see if all the new technology actually takes off, and whether the tablet market will be dominated by two or three players
or support a wide variety of manufacturers.