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Samsung shows off Galaxy Tabs, prices designed to take on iPad 2

by Phil Hornshaw

Samsung (005930.KS) sat up and paid serious attention when Steve Jobs walked out on stage at Apple’s iPad 2 announcement earlier this month in San Francisco.

The company has been struggling with its answer to the iPad, the Android-running Galaxy Tab. While Samsung has shipped a couple million units in just seven months and made record profits last year, which is respectable, the Galaxy Tab still hasn’t taken off the way the iPad has, and Samsung wants the machine to be a serious alternative to Apple’s (AAPL) tablet powerhouse.

So the company was paying attention to all the new changes between the iPad and the iPad 2, and the result are two new versions of the Galaxy Tab specifically designed to stand on level ground with the iPad 2. Samsung has teased a smaller version of the Galaxy Tab, the Galaxy 8.9, but during a press conference today it announced a totally revamped version of its the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the original, iPad-sized Galaxy Tab.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 features a dual-core processor, the 10.1-inch touch display it had previously, and one important new feature: It’s actually thinner than the iPad 2. Cue shock and awe.

It gets better. Samsung rolled out price points for both the 8.9 and the 10.1, which are due this summer. The 10.1 is in line to directly compete with the iPad 2 -- it’ll run at $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi-only Galaxy Tab 10.1, $599 for a 32GB version, both available on June 8. The 8.9’s prices are even lower: $469 for its Wi-Fi 16GB, $569 for the same in 32GB. There’s not a firm release date for the 8.9, but Samsung has said it’ll be available this summer.

Internally, both tabs sport front- and rear-facing cameras and 1GHz dual-core processors, although further details aren’t available yet. They also carry microSD slots and SIM slots. The Galaxies are also sporting batteries that Samsung claims will afford them up to 10 hours of video playback.

The new Galaxy Tabs will also be the first Android tablets that don’t actually run a pure Android experience. Instead, the new tabs will include some hybrid features called TouchWiz 4.0, which loop in some of Samsung’s own software into Google’s (GOOG) existing Android 3.0 Honeycomb experience underneath. When Engadget got to check it out, they said that TouchWiz works-in some nice, useful additions to the Android framework, without being obtrusive. The overall result, it seems, is an improved user experience.

Samsung hasn’t quite gone back the drawing board on the Galaxy Tab, but the company has learned some lessons between rounds and has come out from the corner swinging, and swinging hard. Apple isn’t the only company that can build a quality tablet and price it well, according to Samsung’s very apparent message. It’ll be exciting to see if June 8 will truly bring an iPad competitor that can really stand up to Apple and give Android users a great tab to call their own.