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Samsung goes where Apple won't

Samsung is the first top-tier manufacturer to come out with a 7-inch Android tablet in the U.S. Is Steve Jobs missing a market opportunity?

PALO ALTO, CALIF.--The Samsung Galaxy Tab has found a sweet spot the Apple iPad will miss--apparently.

Steve Jobs was wrong: a 7-inch diagonal is fine. Samsung Galaxy Tab on right.
Steve Jobs was wrong: a 7-inch diagonal is fine. Samsung Galaxy Tab on right. CNET Reviews

I'm writing this on Wednesday during a brief sojourn in Silicon Valley. I had some time to burn so I spent about 30 minutes using the Galaxy Tab at a local Best Buy. Granted, that isn't a long time by product review standards, but it was long enough for me to realize that I was hooked on the size.

Let me be clear, I have no gripes about the 10-inch screen on the iPad (which, by the way, I use all the time and frighteningly at the expense of my MacBook Air--but that's another post for another day).

And I'll confess that I have a bias for small, light designs: the smaller and lighter, the better. To a point. Seven inches is that point. Without descending into tedious punditry about the merits of a 7-inch design, suffice to say that it just feels better in my hand and the screen size is more than adequate. And on-screen typing presented no problem for me.

In fact, if Apple came out with a 7-inch iPad, I can say with pretty much certainty that I would be in line to buy one (and I think that would be a long line on product launch day). That said, Steve Jobs has already apparently precluded that possibility, proclaiming--as I have touched on before--that Apple isn't interested in offering a 7-inch model.

Is this a giant opportunity for the Android camp? We'll see of course. A preliminary report claims that the Galaxy Tab is not exactly flying off the shelves--what Ashok Kumar, an analyst at Rodman & Renshaw, has characterized as the Galaxy's "poor sell through." In the U.S., that may be partially due to the reluctance to buy a tablet with Android apps that are not yet ready for a larger screen, as this CNET review says. But it's more likely due to price--the Galaxy Tab is not cheap--and to consumers being unfamiliar with any device that's not an iPad. Something akin to the I-want-nothing-but-an-iPhone-4 syndrome. Plus, not all reviews have been favorable.

But Motorola, HTC, Dell, HP, and others would be well advised to follow Samsung's lead with similarly sized tablets. Sorry, Mr. Jobs, I think you're wrong on this one.