Samsung's tablet line now has three models with Tuesday's announcement of an 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab -- as well as a thinner version of its current 10.1-inch model. The company said both the 8.9-inch and more-svelte 10.1-inch Galaxy Tabs are the "world's thinnest tablets" at 8.6 millimeters thick, compared to 8.8 millimeters for the category leader, Apple's iPad 2.
Like the larger model, the 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab will have a dual-core one-gigahertz processor, a two-megapixel front-facing camera, and a three-megapixel camera on back. It will be available either with Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi plus HSPA+ 4G.
Both new tablets will be available in 16GB, 32GB or 64GB configurations, along with a microSD expansion slot that can handle an additional 32GB. Prices for the Wi-Fi versions of the 8.9-inch and the thinner 10.1-inch range from $499 to $599. The first in the Galaxy Tab line, the seven-incher, was released in the U.S. in November. LTE and WiMAX 4G versions are expected sometime this year.
Both the 8.9-inch and redesigned 10.1-inch run Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the version of Google's open-source operating system that has been optimized for tablets. They will also be the first to get Samsung's new TouchWiz 4.0 for tablets, its customized user interface on top of Honeycomb, arriving after launch via a software update. There will also be a pre-loaded Readers Hub with a link to more than 2,000 e-magazines and two million books, and a Music Hub to access 13 million songs.
TouchWiz reportedly offers a live panel for customizing content, a Mini Apps Tray to switch between often-used applications, a Social Hub for social-networking applications, various widgets, and a wireless manager.
The first tablet with Android 3.0 was Motorola's Xoom. Motorola has been emphasizing innovations in Honeycomb, including widgets, multitasking, browsing, notifications and customization. While that first-with-Honeycomb distinction isn't lasting long, it could position the Xoom and the new Galaxy Tabs as direct competitors, since neither can realistically shoot for first place in the tablet category.
Industry research group Forrester has forecast that Apple will sell 80 percent of the tablets purchased this year. Others project that Apple will continue to own 50 to 60 percent of the rapidly growing category for at least the next year -- in spite of new tablet competitors.
Samsung has been attempting to position its Galaxy Tab line as in second place in the tablet category. Late last year, the company said it had sold one million units, and in January it upped that to two million. Those numbers would have given it about 20 percent of the tablet market. But it hasn't been clear to what extent those were units shipped to distributors or to actual customers.