Samsung Brings Premium Notebooks to U.S.By Lawrence Walsh | Print
The electronics giants — best known for its printers and displays — is challenging premium notebook vendors, seeking to challenge Toshiba, Sony and Apple for the high-end mobility market.
The Samsung laptops in the vendor’s Manhattan solution center are no longer museum pieces for public viewing. The Korean electronics conglomerate is bringing its long awaited portable ultra-light computers to the U.S. market today in a multi-phased introduction schedule that begins with solution providers.
Beginning today, Samsung is launching a multi-phase program to introduce its Q, R, X and P series notebooks to authorized U.S. solution providers in the vendor’s P3 channel program. Over the next three quarters, Samsung plans to introduce its high-end notebooks to different channels—direct market resellers, online retailers and brick-and-mortar retailers.
"We want to see how the product is received by the customers and ramp up at a controlled pace," says Chris Franey, vice president of marketing and commercial sales at Samsung Electronics America.
Samsung has sold its notebooks in overseas markets for years, but this is the first attempt to enter the highly competitive U.S. market, which is dominated by Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo. Rather than trying to displace market leaders with commodity, price-sensitive models, Samsung is attacking the high-end value network where Toshiba, Sony and Apple play.
"The time to get into this market is right now; it will get more difficult in the next few years," says Franey. "What’s going on with Dell and HP is that there is a lot of people looking for an alternative, and there’s no clear number three alternative."
One of the first entries is the X360 notebook, which boasts a 13.3-inch display and a weight lighter than the MacAir (2.8 pounds), a 2.8-inch deep chassis, full Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity and a 10-hour battery. The unit runs on an Intel Centrino II power-optimized processor and comes standard with Windows Vista for Business. Added bonuses include a 128 GB solid-state hard drive, 3.6 GB RAM and built-in biometric security. The MSRP is $2,499, placing it well within the premium price band for laptops.
"The notebook vendors are pushing down the price and that is opening a door in the premium space. Premium performance will be our job number one," says Jason Redmond, a Samsung spokesperson.
Samsung plans to introduce similar models as it continues to build out its channel distribution network. Enhancing the notebook offerings is a common set of peripherals and accessories, including docking stations and power supplies, which the company says will make it easier for resellers to bundle packages.
"This is not SKU proliferation," Franey says. "This is a wonderful thing for feature-conscious resellers and business customers."
Samsung recognizes that entering a competitor market and winning over resellers is a challenge. What it counts in its favor is its existing channel and retail footprint and brand recognition. Franey believes the brand pull, existing printer and display channels, and user familiarity with Samsung cellular phones will propel the notebook entry. As the line develops, Franey says Samsung may introduce tighter integration between its notebook and cell phone products.
"I understand people’s skepticism about a new entry and our ability to capture a place in the premium market. We think we’re in a good spot to go out and be successful," Franey says.