Samsung Is Finally Serious About PCs. Intel and Microsoft Seem Delighted
In the first Galaxy Unpacked event ever dedicated to introducing new laptops, Samsung’s Head of Mobile Communications Business, Dr. TM Roh, presented the Galaxy Book Pro series. The Galaxy Book Pro and the Galaxy Book Pro 360 run on the 11th Intel Core processor and leverage a deep integration between Microsoft 365 apps and Samsung’s features such as Samsung Gallery and Samsung Notes.
These products represent the start of a new chapter in Samsung’s role in the PC market. These are clearly not the first Samsung’s PCs, but reading between the lines of the dedicated event, the presence on stage of both Dr. TM Roh and CMO Stephanie Choi, there is a stronger commitment to the category going forward. Dr. Roh talked about Samsung’s customers’ desire to see the brand move more into the PC space. There is, of course, a revenue opportunity at a time when consumers have redefined their relationship with the PC. There is also an opportunity to deepen the engagement with the current Galaxy phones’ users by creating value from all the devices working together to elevate Samsung’s experience.
PCs And, Not Or, Smartphones
Throughout the event, Samsung highlighted what makes their brand different compared to the rest of the market. While I would not go as far as saying these products re-invent the category, there is no denying Samsung’s deep understanding of what it takes to deliver a great mobile experience. The tagline used throughout the event was “why can’t a PC be more like a smartphone?”. This is certainly a question that consumers have been asking for quite some time and a vision that PC manufacturers tried to deliver on with different degrees of success.
During the digital event, Intel and Microsoft joined Samsung on stage, welcoming the brand to the ecosystem and sharing some of the work done together to differentiate the experience on these products.
Over the past year or so, I made no secret that I believe there is an essential role for Samsung to play in the PC market that would be mutually beneficial to the Korean brand and the broader ecosystem. The relationship reset between consumers and PCs brought forward by the pandemic did not come at the expense of our love affair with smartphones. If anything, consumers have been either appreciating or longing for a tighter relationship between their smartphone and their PC. When smartly brought together, these two devices can deliver a more flexible, personal and modern computing experience.
Samsung did not need the pandemic to understand the importance of this relationship. We all saw the kind of work done to bring Office and Windows and the Galaxy Note family closer. What has changed with the pandemic is the opportunity to leverage the new sentiment towards the PC and the consumer willingness to spend by delivering on the PC front as well as the phone front. In other words, why should Samsung make the Windows ecosystem stronger by making Galaxy phones the best companions without benefitting from the effort by also bringing to market some new laptops?
From an ecosystem perspective, Microsoft could benefit from another strong player in the market, especially one who understands mobility and is well entrenched with carriers. This is also a good time, given the uncertainty that remains on Huawei’s choice of the operating system for its phones going forward. For Intel, as more PC makers embrace silicon diversity, having a new brand to work with is a plus, especially on EVO-certified products. I would expect Samsung to continue to slot Qualcomm’s powered devices in its portfolio and possibly, over time, also consider AMD. Yet in this new push working closely with Intel allows Samsung to add credibility to its effort, especially in the enterprise market and, of course, provides some extra marketing Dollars.
Over the past few years, Samsung has been focusing more on software and UI on its Galaxy phones, and I was delighted to see that some great features designed to enrich users’ experience on the phones made it to the Galaxy Book Pro Series. In particular, I would call out Galaxy Book Smart Switch to transfer data from your existing Windows PC to the Galaxy Book Pro. If you are entirely sold on the cloud or work with a Microsoft account, you will have little use for Smart Switch. Still, you will also be a member of a very selected group. When it comes to mainstream users, especially those that have been using their PCs as an emergency computing device for the past few years, most data is just sitting on a hard drive.
As we saw highlighted in the latest Galaxy A Series Unpacked, video streaming and video calling also took center stage with the Galaxy Book Pro family. Samsung is trying to streamline workflows that matter to its target segment, from dedicated keys to turn the camera and mic on/off to Intelligent Noise Cancelling.
Of course, you cannot talk about Samsung products without mentioning connectivity, and the galaxy Book Pro Series is Wi-Fi 6E Ready and supports LTE and 5. However, it is unclear which US carriers will sell the newly launched models. The Galaxy Book Pro 13″ will start at $999.99, and the 15″ starts at $1,099.99. The Galaxy Book Pro 360 13″ starts at $1,199.99, and the Galaxy Book Pro 360 15″ will start at $1,299.99 and be available for retail purchase beginning May 14.
As we all know, market share in the PC market is not made overnight. Momentum comes by building a portfolio that is reliable both in its performance and its launch cadence. I will be able to say more on the former in a few weeks, but only time will tell on the latter.