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Take Note, Samsung delivers the goods
Publication Date : 12-08-2012
Even as the ongoing courtroom battle between Apple and Samsung raged on in the United States last week, the most interesting aspect of the case did not come from any top-secret document.
Instead, it arrived in a simple press statement from the Korean electronics giant announcing the latest version of its Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet computer.
On paper, it runs on a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, with 2GB of RAM and powered by the latest Android operating system, which is the fastest, most updated tablet software by Google.
What stood out during a 45-minute hands-on session I had with the new device was the split-screen feature that allowed me to run two applications, like e-mail and a Web browser, side-by-side.
The S Pen stylus allowed greater precision control over the normal touchscreen interface. A quick scribble of E=MC2 automatically produced an online search result for the formula, while random shapes I drew turned into precise outlines of shapes used for colouring or presentation work.
It operated like no other Apple device in the market.
Both companies are currently engaged in a lawsuit that claims each has infringed on the other's patents, from hardware design to software implementation, used in smartphones and tablets.
The case revolves around devices launched back in 2007, covering the original iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S phone and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, but it is clear that both companies are thinking about the future.
If Apple wins, it is a sign to competitors that no one can hope to achieve success by copying its popular iPhone and iPad devices, which have reportedly sold more than 240 million units and 85 million units respectively.
But if Samsung wins, it will probably mean business as usual. And as the Galaxy Note 10.1 shows, Samsung does not need to ape Apple to succeed.
Unlike Apple, which launches one iPhone and one iPad a year, Samsung offers more varieties.
The original Android-powered Samsung Galaxy S has sold more than 24 million units since June 2010. Its successor, the Galaxy S II, launched in May last year, has sold 28 million units globally while the latest version, the Galaxy S III, crossed the 10 million sales mark less than two months after it went on sale this May.
The Samsung Galaxy Note phone/tablet hybrid sports a 5.3-inch screen and uses a stylus.
Released last October, it has sold more than seven million units globally.
This means that in the last 15 months, the Koreans have sold more than 45 million units of the S II, S III and Galaxy Note, and these figures do not include other devices the company launched during the same period, such as the Galaxy Tab 7.7 tablet, and phones like the Galaxy Ace 2 and Galaxy Beam.
All these have made Samsung the world leader in smartphone sales, beating the likes of Nokia and Apple.
The company sold 44 million smartphones in the first three months of this year, ahead of Apple's 35.1 million units, according to research company Strategy Analytics.
It's no wonder Apple is trying to quash its greatest competitor with patent infringements lawsuits. But this might work only for older devices as features like the stylus and split screen show that Samsung is now testing out its own ideas.
The Galaxy S III also includes Smart Stay, a small but useful feature with a phone camera that tracks the user's eyes, so that the phone screen will not shut off as long as the user is looking at it.
Together with 3G or LTE high-speed data, Smart Stay and a quad core processor, few would mistake Samsung's latest tablet for the iPad.
And with talk that Apple will announce a new phone and tablet next month, Samsung's announcement conveniently pre-empts Apple.
The company's long-term goal is clearly innovation, not litigation, to retain its top spot in the market.
Later this year, Microsoft will launch its Windows 8 operating system and introduce a new line of Windows tablets.
As a long-time proponent of Microsoft, Samsung will definitely want to take the lead with any new device, and the company is working on a high-resolution, 2,560 x 1,600-pixel, 11.8inch tablet.
While the assumption is that this could be an Android device, my bet is that it might easily be a Windows 8 tablet.
If anything, Apple has taught Samsung that being first to the market lets it grab the role of trend-setter. Response to its last few key products has shown that the Korean company has the innovative know-how and marketing savvy to trigger sales.
If this keeps up, its competitors, including Apple, might well end up taking notes.