Surprise, the new iPad is only slightly better than the iPad2. Where does this leave Samsung?

March 14, 2012
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Samsung Galaxy  Tab 11.6

Phew…the Apple hypesteria is starting to cool off. Just a few more days, the inevitable reports about people standing in endless lines to get the “new iPad”, and we’re done. For a while…

Anyway, the last days have brought unpleasant news for iFans, news that are, I must admit, music to my fanboyish ears.

First, some enterprising sports in Vietnam have got their hands on a new iPad and ran it through some benchmarks. And, the mother of all surprises, the new iPad, fitted with Apple’s new dual-core A5X chip, is only slightly better than the old iPad. True, the benchmark used, GeekBench, doesn’t test graphics performance, which is the strong suit that Apple touted intensely during their press event. But, as some speculate, the claimed 4X graphics performance boost over Tegra 3 (still completely unsubstantiated, by the way) may be heavily offset by the high number of pixels (2048 x 1536) that the A5X has to push. Long story short – the new iPad will probably perform just about the same as the old iPad.

Now to the display – news broke that Samsung is the only supplier of displays for the new iPad, after LG and Sharp have apparently been sidelined due to quality issues. This means that Apple has become even more heavily dependent on Samsung’s displays (the Koreans also make the DRAM modules and the SoC found in the new iPad). That’s not a problem in its own – the well-documented “frenemy” relationship between Apple and Samsung has been going on for years. However, because Samsung is the only display maker left in the game, Apple is bound to encounter output problems. This is why I expect the iPad’s market performance to be affected by supply problems this year.

So, the new iPad is not as unstoppable as some analysts and bloggers would want you to believe. It’s time for Samsung to seize the opportunity. But can it deliver a tablet that can really challenge the iPad? Of course it can. In fact, that tablet, the rumored Galaxy Tab 11.6, is probably a lot closer than we think.

The Galaxy Tab 11.6 has to exist. Why? Because, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and the Galaxy Note 10.1 are clearly not designed to compete with the iPad. This leaves only two options standing. One, Samsung is giving up the fight, and settling for the morsels that fall from the Apple’s table. Two, Samsung is secretly preparing its latest attempt at an iPad-killer.

I think that the Galaxy Tab 11.6 has strong chances to sell better than its predecessors. Samsung will benefit not only from the iPad’s weaknesses, which I described above, but also by the wave of cheap Android tablets that is due in summer. The arrival of the Google Nexus tablet and of the ASUS MeMo 347T may be the spark that blows up the entire ecosystem, just like it happened with the original Droid and the smartphone game. And a stronger Android tablet ecosystem will only benefit the Galaxy Tab 11.6.

We’ll wait and see. For now, the new iPad is due on Friday, when experts of all shapes and sizes will analyze every last piece of silicon in it. Then, we’ll be able to guess better whether the iPad really lost its aura or it’ll own the tablet market for another year.

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