The Galaxy Book S stole the show. Can it steal market share?

Taking Snapdragon laptops to new heights, Samsung's surprise announcement fits well with the Note 10's message of mobile productivity. But the laptop also takes its place among categories where the giant is a long way from market leadership.

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Based on several moves Samsung made before and during its Note 10 launch, you'd think the company was determined to let nothing steal focus from the star of the show. While it referenced its latest tablet and watch, those products had been cleared from the runway before the company filled Brooklyn's Barclays Center. And there was no mention of the Galaxy Fold, a novelty device that outshines the Note. But as Samsung's extravaganza detailed the finer points of the device line that begat the phablet, it took a detour to note what would be "one more thing" in an Apple keynote: The Galaxy Book S. It's a laptop.

A laptop? Was this some nod to the Microsoft lovefest that permeated this introduction of an Android device? A bit. But this was no workaday PC. For one, it was a device that ran on the new Windows-on-Snapdragon architecture aimed at imbuing PCs with the connectivity and battery longevity of phones. The device's sliver-like clamshell layers and design place it at the top of the modest design heap of the Qualcomm-fueled PC initiative, hence earning it the connotation of design excellence associated with its "S" line.

A laptop crashing a smartphone party may seem surprising. However, despite the operating system divergence, the Galaxy Book S' proposition is highly complementary to that of the Note's -- a connected productivity tool for upscale mobile pros that features nominal weight, minimal thickness, and long battery life.

Furthermore, there are strategic reasons why Samsung would want to introduce the Galaxy Book S at such a high-profile event. While laptops may seem like a sleepy, mature category, they are a staple, a great adjunct category into the enterprise, and an opportunity to grow share against incumbents like Dell that have been slower to take a chance on the new architecture. And while their volumes may represent a fraction of the smartphone market, Samsung, like Qualcomm, is eager to diversify revenue beyond slowing smartphones into other premium products.

However, like Sony before it, Samsung has had laptops with striking designs before that have failed to make much headway in light of how entrenched HP, Dell, and Lenovo are in the higher-end of the Windows segment. That leaves the Galaxy Book S as another in the circle of products surrounding Samsung's smartphone portfolio that have faced strong headwinds. These include smartwatches, where it beats Apple to market; tablets, where it was a fast follower; and smart speakers, where the Galaxy Home -- which had a similar surprise debut last year -- hasn't yet made it into homes. (The latter is one category, though, where Apple has fallen far short of market domination.) 

Windows on Snapdragon PCs may not represent a new category, but Qualcomm is working hard to position them as an inflection in the PC's evolution while continuing to make strides in their performance. In releasing new hardware that shows the kind of appealing designs the architecture can provide, it makes the case for such laptops more credible.

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