You knew it would happen eventually: Convergence in the tablet and smartphone space. The main question was: Who would get there first?
For now, it looks as if Samsung will have a first-mover edge in bringing to market a handheld device that claims to be everything rolled into one 5.3-inch, 6.3-ounce super gadget.
The Galaxy Note, announced last week and debuted in Berlin, is advertised as a smartphone, tablet, notepad, planner, and game. Of course, it also has all the bells and whistles we've come to expect — camera, video recorder, music player, Internet connectivity, Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) OS, and I guess it sometimes will be used as a phone. Here's the video of the Note in action and details from the company's IFA 2011 Press Conference.
Curiously, what's making it a stand-out isn't some totally crazy new feature. Can you guess what's marking the tablet-smartphone crossover? Yeah, it's a built-in stylus. You know the throw-back to the days of Palm Pilot and other PDAs?
Admittedly, I'm happy to see the return of the stylus. As a natural scribbler and doodler, the stylus — used in combination with the touchscreen swipes — ups the level of gadget usefulness, at least in my mind.
That said, if you're an avid watcher of the electronics space, the timing of the announcement may be interesting, if not fascinating.
On one hand, the Korean electronics company is embroiled in a legal IP battle with Apple, which EBN's Bolaji Ojo has written about extensively. (See: This Apple Win Should Not Stand.)
Samsung has lost the initial rounds of the patent war in German and Australian courts, and a couple weeks back, a Dutch court in The Hague issued a preliminary injunction against the company's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II, and Ace Smartphones, according to the media reports; Samsung's tablet was not included in The Hague's injunction.
In light of the lawsuits, some immediate questions come to mind. How different is the Note compared to the iPad or iPhone? Will it be safe from litigation? And how will the courts balance the need to protect corporate patents while ensuring that the markets remain competitive?
On a lighter note, the rapid convergence even seems to be throwing analysts off.
Last week, Juniper Research analyst Daniel Ashdown blogged about the troubles of pigeon-holing something like the Note into forecasts. He quipped that some media outlets are already calling the Note a phone-tablet hybrid or a tablet phone, while others think it deserves a new category title. For now, at least, it looks like it will stay on Juniper's smartphone radar screen:
- We're willing to up the limit of a Smartphone though and include the Galaxy Note. For one reason, it runs Google’s Android OS version 2.3 (Gingerbread), and not 3.0 (Honeycomb) — a dedicated Tablet release. More importantly though it is a phone in the strictest sense, in that it can be held up to the ear — of course, it will be up to consumers to make the final decision on this as to whether this is a comfortable size.
Whatever Note is, it's obviously going to make other OEMs take a second look at their smartphone-tablet strategies, don't you think?