Tablets have been one of the biggest technology issues of 2011, so it’s perhaps fitting that as the year winds to a close, one of the largest and most acrimonious legal battles surrounding tablets has come to a conclusion. Earlier in the year, Apple had sought to block Samsung from selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1, a Tablet running the Android 3.0 (“Honeycomb”) operating system. Not because there was anything wrong with Honeycomb, but because Apple felt it infringed on its iPad and specifically some patents relating to it. I’m no lawyer and hardly qualified to comment on the legal proceedings that took place, except to say that they were lengthy, no doubt expensive, and seemed to see-saw back and forth with each given week. At long last, after appeals, Samsung’s been granted the rights to sell the tablet in Australia; it will do so directly through retailers with a 16GB Galaxy Tab 10.1 costing $579 outright or $729 if you want the 3G-enabled version of the tablet. Telcos have also announced plans to sell the 10.1 on contract, although at the time of writing only Vodafone had announced exact pricing; that may well change by the time you read this.
For the truly technology keen, the 10.1’s been available through grey market importers for some time, so it’s not exactly a new product to our shores in one sense. I’ve not had the chance to test out an “official” Galaxy Tab 10.1 through Samsung directly as yet, but I have had some hands on time with a directly imported unit. It’s certainly a nicely designed tablet; I can see why it could have irked Apple as the feel is terribly iPad-esque, but having said that I’d better clarify again; I’m not a lawyer and even with that caveat I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea that this should be enough to have any product banned per se.
Getting them onto retail shelves will be the interesting next step, especially depending on how keen consumers end up being to actually buy them. There’s no shortage of competing tablets; even ignoring Apple you could buy a tablet from vendors such as Acer or Asus already, and whether the Tab 10.1 will grab attention will be interesting to see. I’m writing this at the moment rather remotely from the UK, where the Tab 10.1 has been available for many months, and anecdotally from what I can see — and especially what I can see busy technology shoppers actually stopping to test — the Tab 10.1 is seen as “just another tablet”. Given how long and hard Samsung Australia’s fought to have it appear on Australian shelves, I’m betting that’s not the response they’re hoping for from Aussie consumers. It’s worth noting that the Tab 10.1, like much of the rest of this year’s Android tablet crop, is an Android 3 product; the latest Android iteration, Android 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”, if you want its official product name) is currently only officially available on one phone, although ironically that’s a Samsung product; a phone produced for Google called the Google Galaxy Nexus. Ice Cream Sandwich is meant to bridge the divide between phones and tablets and is expected to be available on a wide variety of tablets, but it’s not yet confirmed at all if it’ll come to the Tab 10.1 or not.