Samsung: 'We're not doing very well in the tablet market'

One Samsung executive gets brutally honest about his company's performance in the tablet market, even while offering up some hope for its line of Galaxy Note mobile devices.

Samsung executive Hankil Yoon speaking during a media roundtable at the company's booth at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Roger Cheng/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain--Samsung Electronics admitted that its attempt to breach the tablet market has largely been a flop, with one executive offering a sobering summary of its performance.

"Honestly, we're not doing very well in the tablet market," Hankil Yoon, a product strategy executive for Samsung, said today during a media roundtable here.

That's about as frank a statement as it gets from any executive at the Mobile World Congress trade show this week.

That Samsung hasn't met expectations in its tablet business isn't a huge surprise; the company lags well behind Apple's iPad and even Amazon's Kindle Fire in the U.S. market. But for an executive to acknowledge the weakness is refreshing at a time when corporate-speak and jargon dominate conversations--particularly ones of a sensitive nature.

Unlike Apple and other tablet vendors, Samsung has tried a shotgun approach at pushing its Galaxy Tab line of tablets. Initially offering a 7-inch version, it moved up to 10 inches and filled in the rest of the portfolio with sizes in between. Samsung, for the most part, was experimenting with the sizes and using the market as a testbed for what resonates with consumers.

Samsung, however, appears to remain confident that the Galaxy Note will take off. The 5-inch version, which is already out in the market, has been hit by a string of criticism, largely due to its a size. While it acts as a phone, it looks more like a tweener product in between a smartphone and tablet, calling some to label it a "phablet."

Yoon said he expects to ship 10 million units of the 5-inch Galaxy Note, lofty expectations for a company still smarting in the tablet business. He believes the S-Pen--the stylus that comes with the device--allows users to more easily create content, rather than consume it.

Samsung earlier this week announced a 10.1-inch version of the Galaxy Note . When asked about the threat of redundant products, Yoon said he hoped the Note cannibalized sales of the original 10.1-inch Tab

"The best thing to survive in the market is to kill your products," Yoon said. "We want to stay competitive in the market."

That's why Samsung has been focused on pushing the Note and its S-Pen. Having struggled in the traditional tablet market, Samsung wanted to do something different in the category, Yoon said. He added that he no longer carries a physical notepad or papers, and does all of his note-taking on the 5-inch Note.

"Even if the design is similar, how you use the (Note) is totally different," he said.

Yoon dismissed the early criticism of the device, saying it would take some education for consumers to get comfortable with the larger size. He noted that three years ago, the largest phone in its line up had a 3.7-inch display, while the Galaxy S II has a 4.3-inch screen. It's just a matter of adapting to a larger screen.

"Once I used this, the Galaxy S II looks too small," he said. "I don't go back to any other smartphone or tablet."

 

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