Why is a tablet preferable to a laptop? Convenient form-factor? Ease of handling? No. If that were the case, the HP Slate would still run Windows 7. Tablets are wonderful for reading or browsing the Internet, but that alone isn't nearly enough to carry a distinct product line. To be successful, a tablet needs endurance. Staying power.
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The iPad routinely exceeds ten hours of in-use battery life. It lasts long enough that you can forget you are using a battery powered device, which makes it ideal for the kind of immersive mind-state that thorough enjoyment of the written word requires. What other gadget can you take out to the hammock and relax with on a summer day?
True; you can find laptops with 12 hour batteries. But those are netbooks, underpowered gadgets with an awkward form-factor and some seriously frustrating limitations. Reading a magazine or web page or ebook on a netbook cannot compare to reading it on a tablet. The iPad is a device of liberation. It brings freedom from cords, from the need to stay near an outlet at all times. It is simple and intuitive and, most of all, convenient.
Apple put all of their eggs into the convenience basket. By contrast, her competitors have made the mistake of trying to outdo the iPad with additional features and beefier hardware. This is standard operating procedure for competing with Apple, but it will not work in this product category. Tablets don't need to do much, but they need to be fast and they need to have staying power.
HP realized this belatedly, which is why they are rushing to stick webOS on their Slate and beef up its battery life. The ExoPC and the WePad and the AigoPad spec leaks all studiously avoid any mention of estimated battery life. There is a reason for this; none of these tablets can compete with the iPad in terms of longevity. (Prove me wrong, guys!) That will be their undoing.
Only one tablet on the horizon really has good odds at taking on the iPad in its home court and coming out smelling like a rose. Thanks to a transreflective LCD screen, Notion Ink's Adam is the only competing product willing to brag about battery life. Whether or not the finished product will actually be able to deliver 16 hours of in-use battery life is anyone's guess. If they can, the Adam will emerge as the first true threat to the iPad's dominance.
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In the end, company loyalty is only a factor for a minority of consumers. The rest of us just want to be freed from the tedium of constant charging and power gauge worrying. The market will go to whoever does this best.