From the moment Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Tab, it has promoted the smaller 7-inch display as a feature. However, hints that Samsung is working on a 10-inch version of the Android tablet suggest that could just be marketing hype, and that Samsung recognizes that size really does matter for a tablet.
A CNN Tech story reports that Samsung displayed a prototype "e-reader" at the FPD International Green Device 2010 trade-show in China. Samsung hasn't stated that it will be a next-generation Galaxy Tab, but circumstantial evidence based on the similarities between the features and design of the "e-reader" suggest that it is really a Galaxy Tab tablet.
The Apple iPad has stood thus far virtually unchallenged--both as a tablet in general, and as a tablet with a larger form factor, with a 9.7-inch display. The Dell Streak, which was one of the first mainstream attempts to compete with the iPad, has a diminutive 5-inch display that puts it more on par with giant smartphones than small tablets.
Following the Streak, it seems that every other tablet announcement has focused on the 7-inch display. The Samsung Galaxy Tab, Cisco Cius, and BlackBerry PlayBook are all iPad rivals built on a smaller 7-inch form factor.
Each of these vendors has pitched the smaller size--and subsequent lower weight--as benefits that make the devices better portable computing gadgets than the Apple iPad. The smaller tablet can fit in a jacket pocket, or easily within most women's purses, and the lighter weight makes the pint-sized tablet easier to manage one-handed while on the go.
The dirty secret, though, is that the current versions of the Android operating system--the OS that drives the Galaxy Tab, the BlackBerry PlayBook, and the Cisco Cius--is not designed for tablets, and does not play well at screen sizes more than 7-inches. The 7-inch display is a limitation of the Android OS, not a feature.
The difference between a 7-inch display and a 9.7-inch display doesn't sound like much on paper. But, if you look at an iPad and a Galaxy Tab side by side you can see just how significant the size difference is. The aspects sold as features--more portable, lighter weight, etc.--are true, but they also make the device less functional as a mobile computing platform for many users.
The iPad, when used in landscape mode, offers a virtual keyboard that is virtually standard size and enables the tablet to be used for more typing-intensive tasks. The iPad, and the HP Slate 500 are an ideal size for a tablet, providing a solid balance between portability and productivity.
It is probably not a coincidence that as Google prepares to launch Android 3.0--a.k.a. "Gingerbread"--vendors are beginning to develop larger Android tablets. It will be interesting to see how vendors that have pitched the virtues of the 7-inch tablet will market their own larger tablets once they're available, and whether or not that marketing will acknowledge that bigger is actually better.