Is CEO's honesty about Galaxy Tab and iPad 2 really the best policy?

Samsung chief throws his product under the bus

Back before I got married, people would often ask me what I was searching for in a prospective mate. I would always answer “honesty” as the first criteria I looked for, which often earned me quite a few snickers from my friends. I mean, how do you rate another person based on an honesty scale? And what’s with my obsession with honesty anyway?

Well, being a tech reviewer, I seem to be subjected to quite a lot of dishonesty actually. Marketing people want to put their best foot forward, so they will attempt to dazzle me and the rest of the lab staff with tales about how great their devices are. And if we didn’t put them through extensive testing in the lab, we might never know the truth. In a way, it might be simpler to just be up front with reviewers, or even customers. But that almost never happens. Still, actual lies are pretty rare. Mostly its just a fact of life that marketing people are paid to put their best foot forward.

So it was with great interest when Samsung Electronics CEO Lee Dong-Joo admitted to a Korean news agency that the company’s much-hyped Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android tablet is “inadequate” compared to the new iPad 2 from Apple. Really? When was the last time you heard about a CEO throwing their flagship product under the bus?

Specifically, he says that Samsung’s new 10-inch tablet, which is set to debut this month, is too thick compared to the iPad. He also questions the wisdom of pricing the 10-inch tablet higher than the current Samsung 7-inch model, which was released late last year.

Lots could happen with this story. Perhaps the 10-inch tablet will be delayed while Samsung engineers work to shave off inches. Or perhaps they will simply compensate by selling it for a really low price. That sets up the odd situation where the new model with the larger screen could actually be bought for less than the older Galaxy with a smaller display. And of course, it would need to be priced significantly less than the iPad 2. I don’t see how it could come out with even a similar price at this point. Samsung is likely going to take a bath on the 10.1 if they want to be even moderately successful in terms of sales.

I’ll reserve judgment on the Galaxy for now, but I have to wonder what Lee Dong-Joo was thinking. It’s not about lying, but some confidence in your product would be good. He could have stressed the reasons why the Galaxy Tab 10.1 was better or different than the iPad 2. There are some factors that come to mind right away like the ability to use Flash, the ability to run multiple applications at the same time and the open-source nature of the Android OS. That would be less about lying and more about showing why your product is different than others on the market.

Sure, reviewers like us might have pummeled it on weight and price compared to the iPad 2, but we would have looked at its good points as well. More so than with the reviewer community, now the public will think the Galaxy 10.1 is inadequate compared to the iPad 2, the one thing they will probably remember from this whole affair. Even now, when you Google the Galaxy, you get more news stories about how the CEO doesn’t like his own product than anything else. The only thing worse would be if someone filmed him checking his mail on an iPad over lunch.

Samsung has had a little trouble keeping someone in the top spot in recent years, and I have to wonder if Lee Dong-Joo might suddenly “retire to pursue other interests” after this. Honesty is all well and good, but sometimes, a little razzle-dazzle isn’t bad either.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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