Thus far Ultrabooks haven't been selling like hot cakes, and analysts believe that prices will need to come way down for the category to take off. So can Samsung succeed by charging more than the competition? According to executives we spoke to at a small gathering here in South Korea, the answer is a resounding "yes."
The Series 9 (originally $1,649) was the first step, said Won Park, vice president of Sales & Marketing for Samsung. The new 13-inch Samsung Series 9 costs $1,449, while the 15-inch Series 9 goes for $1,499. The more value-oriented Series 5 Ultra costs $879, which is still more than $100 pricier than other Ultrabooks coming to market.
"It's kind of an audacious move to go beyond the Ultrabook in terms of price," Park admitted. However, Samsung believes that at least 30 percent of the consumer market won't have a problem paying $200 to $300 more for the right features.
According to Sungwon Song, senior vice president of PC Sales & Marketing, Samsung's competitive advantage lies in its ability to control the design and manufacturing process not just of the exterior of a notebook or tablet, but a good portion of its internal components--from the hard drive to the display.
Another key factor will be leveraging the apps in phones and TVs for use in notebooks. Most importantly, though, will be designing products that reach consumers on an emotional level. "How can we deliver a product to consumers that they'll be proud to show off in public," Song said. "It has to be an aspirational vision."
It's these individuals who are leading not the consumerization of IT, said Raymond Wah, Samsung's vice president of the PC Product Strategy Group, but the MacBook-ization of IT. Given its increased emphasis on design, Wah said that the shrinking distinction between a commercial and consumer PC augurs well for Samsung.
Executives also noted that Samsung is also moving away from glossy displays, and adopting antiglare panels on most, if not all, of its notebooks. Interestingly, Song noted that in past years the trend was to cut down on viewing angles, especially for business systems, so it was harder for people around you to see what you were doing.
Samsung Not Keen on Convertibles Like IdeaPad Yoga
Although Apple's Tim Cook has likened combining desktop computing and tablet computing in one OS to mashing together refrigerators and toasters, Samsung strongly disagrees. But not all will designs will succeed, according to Wah.
Consumers, Wah says, won't warm up to convertible designs such as the IdeaPad Yoga, which force users to carry around the keyboard at all times. "It's a PC first, then a slate only occasionally," Wah said. He argued that because the keys are exposed while it's in tablet mode, the device won't be comfortable to hold. "You can't avoid not touching the key caps," he said. "Then, there's only one way to hold it...It's a PC first, then a slate only occasionally."
However, Samsung isn't necessarily against combining laptops and tablets in general. It just needs to be done in a certain way. "Battery life and weight are considerations when determining a convertible slate design," Wah said."The ability to convert has to be elegant."