Commentary

Early Sales Boost Galaxy Tab As IPad Rival

Galaxy-Tab

It looks like Android may prove as formidable a rival to Apple in the tablet market as in smartphones. Samsung has sold 600,000 Galaxy Tab units in its first month of availability, according to a report in The Korea Herald picked up by BGR. That indicates a strong start for the Android-based tablet, which is now offered in more than 30 countries in North America, Europe and Asia.

Samsung said it was pleased with results so far and that it's confident of meeting the goal of selling 1 million Tabs by year's end. The device, sold by all four major U.S. carriers, had received mostly upbeat reviews from consumer tech experts at launch, suggesting it was set to be a legitimate contender in the nascent tablet space currently dominated by Apple's iPad.

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs initially boasted of selling 1 million iPads in the first 28 days of release last April, and a total of about 7.5 million have been sold to date. Research firm Strategy Analytics earlier this month estimated the iPad commanded 95.5% of the tablet market as of the third quarter.

But along with the Galaxy Tab, other tables are coming from BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion, HP, Dell and others. RIM's Playbook device, which won't be available until early next year, is already drawing interest from the corporate market, where the BlackBerry has long been the smartphone of choice. Sun Life Financial has agreed to buy up to 1,000 Playbooks and ING's Canadian banking unit has committed to purchasing the RIM tablet as well.

With the iPhone already making inroads on the BlackBerry's core business users, RIM wants at least to keep Apple from pulling in corporate customers for the iPad by virtue of its head start in the tablet segment. Still, RIM didn't set sales on fire with the release of the BlackBerry Torch, its answer to the iPhone 4, earlier this year, so the Playbook's success is hardly a foregone conclusion.

What's more, Apple today unveiled the latest version of its mobile operating system, which touts more than 100 new features for the iPad, including multitasking, folders, a unified inbox, and game platform. It will also make the Find My Phone (or iPad or iPod touch) feature available for free without a MobileMe subscription.

Separately, the move by Netflix today to begin offering streaming-only subscriptions points to a positive trend for all tablet computer makers. The step was a reflection of Netflix customers watching more TV episodes and movies streamed instantly over the Internet than on DVDs. That's a trend tablets will both contribute to and benefit from as people become increasingly comfortable watching movies and TV shows on screens other than the living room TV set.

Once again, Apple looks like it's got a jump on things, with a new feature in iOS 4.2 giving iPad users the ability to rent TV episodes directly through the iTunes app with a 30-day viewing window. Time for the Galaxy Tab to get that Neflix app.

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