Samsung unveils GalaxyTab 8.9, thinner version of 10.1

ORLANDO, Fla.--Samsung used its product launch event here at the CTIA Wireless 2011 trade show to punch back in the tablet market via updates to its GalaxyTab line, revealing two new tablets: an 8.9-inch tablet called the GalaxyTab 8.9 and a thinner version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which was first unveiled at Mobile World Congress in February.

samsung galaxyIn a clear shot at tablet market leader Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Samsung executives repeatedly stressed that the new tablets were the world's thinnest, measuring 8.6mm, two millimeters thinner than Apple's iPad 2. The design change for the GalaxyTab 10.1, which originally had a thickness of 10.9 mm, comes weeks after a Samsung executive was quoted by South Korean news media saying that there were parts of the 10.1-inch tablet that were "inadequate" in the wake of the iPad 2 launch. Samsung downplayed that it was changing the design of the device.

In an interview with FierceWireless, Chris Martinez, Samsung's manger for strategy, said that the time between Mobile World Congress and the new announcement of the new tablets was an "opportunity to better ourselves" and with the additional leeway, Samsung was able to plan and execute a thinner model for the U.S. market. It's unclear whether all markets will receive the thinner version of the GalaxyTab 10.1. He said the main user experience difference with the new tablets and what was announced in Barcelona is Samsung's partnership with Cisco, Sybase, SAP and Citrix on enterprise-focused applications.

Martinez said Samsung wants to give consumers as much choice as possible, and so it is pursuing a strategy that allows for multiple tablet form factors and use cases. He also said the company will continue its strategy that it started last year with the Galaxy S line of smartphones and aim for wide carrier distribution for the new gadgets. 
Both tablets will go on sale as Wi-Fi-only devices first. Though the devices support HSPA+, no carrier partnerships were announced; Samsung said LTE and WiMAX versions will follow. The Wi-Fi version of the GalaxyTab 8.9 will be available early this summer for $469 for the 16 GB model and $569 for the 32 GB model. The GalaxyTab 10.1 will be available June 8 for $499 for the 16 GB model and $599 for the 32 GB model, prices comparable to the iPad 2. The new tablets also were unveiled just after Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) announced pricing and an April 19 availability for its own tablet, the PlayBook.

Interestingly, both gadgets run on Samsung's new TouchWiz 4.0 user interface, a customization of version 3.0, or Honeycomb, of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform. The new UI adds a Live Panel menu to the homescreen users can customize to display digital pictures, bookmarked websites and social network feeds. Additionally, the interface includes an application tray of commonly used features such as task manager, calendar and the music player. Both products also feature Samsung's Readers Hub and Music Hub for books and music.

The tablets both feature dual-core 1 GHz processors, a 3-megapixel camera, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and support 1080p HD video playback and 720p video recording.

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