Samsung, Toshiba anxious to launch Honeycomb 3.1 tablets

by Kristen Nicole

News about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 spread across the web yesterday, leading to more questions about the upcoming tablet’s actual release date, its supported Android OS version, and its interface. The Galaxy Tab is expected to hit some Best Buy stores on June 8, with widespread availability on June 17. With Wi-Fi and 4G versions, an NVIDIA (NVDA) dual-core processor and an even thinner design than the iPad 2, Samsung’s upgraded quite a few features in its latest tablet offering. But questions still linger around its support of Honeycomb 3.1, Google’s (GOOG) most recent version of Android, as rumors surface that the platform upgrade may be facing delays (in Europe, at least), and whether Samsung incorporated its own TouchWiz skin in order to ship the Galaxy Tab with Honeycomb 3.1.

Either way, it seems a series of last-minute changes were made to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 release, emphasizing manufacturers’ dilemmas in producing Android-based devices for the masses. It boils down to fragmentation and consumer demand for OS upgrades, whether they occur before or after purchase. For Google, Android’s had a bumpy road in executing its smartphone and tablet platforms, delaying product releases in the past.

Toshiba wants in on Honeycomb 3.1 too

Samsung (005930.KS) has been a supporter of Android’s platform for some time, among the first to launch a tablet for Google’s mobile OS. But Honeycomb 3.1 is encouraging other manufacturers to jump into the tablet game as well. Toshiba (TOSBF.PK) is seeking a smooth diversification beyond the laptop market with plans to release the Thrive, a 10.1-inch tablet running Honeycomb 3.1. The Thrive will feature a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera, and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, though it’s on the thicker side at 0.6 inches. You have a built-in HDMI out port, USB, mini USB and an SD card slot to blame for the thickness of Toshiba’s tablet, incorporating many laptop ports into the Thrive.

Toshiba’s aiming the Thrive at laptop lovers and mobile workers, including a number of cloud-based services pre-installed on the tablet. It’s reportedly to come with Log Me In software, providing access to home computer desktops, along with a file manager built on top of Android for browsing files stored on a USB device or SD card. There’s PrintShare software also installed on the Thrive, enabling users to print directly from the tablet, a feature competitive with iPad’s AirPrint and Samsung’s MobilePrint. Expect three sizes for the Thrive, indicating Toshiba’s immediate ambitions to appeal to the entire range of consumers. There will be an 8GB, 16GB and 32GB tablet, priced at $429, $479 and $579 respectively. One major downside is all versions of the Thrive are Wi-Fi only.