With the launch of its new tablet, unveiled in the United States, Samsung Electronics is looking to build on the popularity of its Note 'phablet', and expects key features such as a stylus-type pen and split-screen function to stand the new device apart from rival Apple Inc's iPad.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet launches on Thursday in the United States, Britain and South Korea, and has picked up positive early reviews from tech bloggers impressed with the S-Pen's writing and sketching performance and the tablet's ability to have two apps active on a split-screen.
The South Korean firm, which Apple accuses of copying the design and some features of its iPad and iPhone, has priced the new tablet at $499 for 16 gigabytes of memory and WiFi-only, the same as the iPad - leaving analysts doubting its impact.
"When you look at the price and overall consumer awareness about Samsung tablets, it's not likely to be a big success," said Park Young, an analyst at Woori Investment & Securities in Seoul. "Tablets are getting cheaper and even Apple is rumored to be preparing a cheaper iPad. Consumers also tend not to spend much on tablets any more as smartphones can do most of the entertainment functions that tablets offer."
Samsung has emphasized how the Note 10.1 is a "game changer" from rival tablets, which are primarily used to consume media - highlighting the device's ability to personalize and create. At Wednesday's launch event in New York, "Moulin Rouge" movie director Baz Luhrmann and fashion designer Zac Posen were on hand to demonstrate how they use the S-Pen stylus in their work.
The U.S. debut of the Galaxy Note 10.1, which uses Google's Android software, comes just three months after the second version of Samsung's flagship Galaxy Tab 10.1 went on sale in May. In the coming months, Samsung is also expected to unveil a new tablet running on Microsoft's new Windows operating system.
While Apple has a single 9.7-inch iPad line-up, Samsung offers a range of products of different sizes - from 7.7-inches to 8.9 inches and 10.1 inches - and late last year created the hybrid phone-cum-tablet, or phablet, category with the 5.3-inch Note, which has sold more than 10 million units since October. A revamped version of the Note smartphone is expected to be unwrapped in Berlin late this month.
Samsung hopes the Galaxy Note 10.1 can help it narrow the gap with Apple in tablet markets, where it remains a distant second to the Cupertino, California-based firm. Apple sold 28.8 million iPads in January-June, giving it 64.4 percent of the market, well ahead of Samsung's sales of 4.4 million tablet models and 9.9 percent market share, according to research firm IHS iSuppli.
The new Note 10.1 boasts a quad-core processor with 1.4 GHz clock speed, and comes with a 5 megapixel rear camera and 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera, which also detects the user's eye movements to prevent the device from going into standby mode.
The 32 GB model will sell for $549, versus iPad's $599.
A U.S. judge on Wednesday asked for the chief executives of Apple and Samsung to speak to each other before a jury begins deliberating next week in the high-stakes patent trial between the two tech titans.
In Seoul on Thursday, Samsung shares closed unchanged at 1.345 million won ($1,200) in a market down 0.05 percent. Shares in Apple closed down 0.1 percent on Nasdaq on Wednesday.