The Battle Lines Have Been Drawn
The iPad is a tough opponent to go up against. As the first company with a commercially successful tablet, Apple has been able to define the traits that will determine the immediate future of that device category. So let's take a look at what makes the iPad great.
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First, the display size. The 9.8" display is comfortably large. It makes for easy reading of maps, E-Books & full web pages. Next-and perhaps most importantly, is the battery life. Many people use their iPads off and on for days without needing to worry about a charge. There's a reason you won't find any Win 7 slates on this list; 5-6 hours of juice (at best) just won't cut it. The zippy processor and App Store are also big reasons for the iPad's success, as is the slim design and relatively light weight.
With that said, let's look at the competition...
Toshiba's Tablet is believed to pack a 10" screen and a Tegra 2 CPU. It'll run Android, probably 2.2, and launch in September-October.
In order to have a prayer, Toshiba will need to launch this thing with a battery comparable to the iPad and a competitive price. From what we know so far, this thing doesn't seem to have any special gimmick to it like a Pixel Qi screen. This means that Toshiba will also need to rely on good design. A thick, fat tablet that is a pain to tote around won't impress anyone lined up next to an iPad.
Judging by the early anticipated launch date, I've got a nasty feeling Toshiba is betting on an early launch to be this thing's savior. This could mean we won't see anything special in this baby aside from a timely launch. The Smartpad will be unveiled next week at IFA, so we will know much more very soon.
Asus has a pretty sweet slate due out too. It's rumored to sport a 10" display, cost $400 bucks and be multimedia focused. The details on the Eee Pad are vague right now, but Asus knows what the people want if ANYONE does. It is highly unlikely that this thing will be less capable than the iPad in any way.
The Eee Pad isn't due out until March, and we'll be looking at a whole new iPad at that point. Asus may find themselves fighting next-year's hot gadget with this year's tech. If that's the case, I don't have much hope for them.
Viewsonic's ViewPads are definitely contenders. One will have a 7" touchscreen, the other will be 10" and Intel-based. Aside from that expect GPS, 3G, WiFi, GPS, a microSD slot, Bluetooth, a G-Sensor and USB.
The 10" could really give the iPad a run for its money, depending on which chip it ends up packing. A dual-core 1.5 GHz Atom processor could really leave Apple quaking in their boots, presuming the battery is up to snuff. This one will be unveiled at IFA as well.
Their 7" tablet won't be much of a threat to the iPad though. For the same reason as the...
Samsung Galaxy Tab. This is basically the Galaxy S with a 7" display. It looks great, the build quality is high and the specs are rock solid. But I don't think it has a prayer. I may very well end up eating these words, but it is my belief that 7" is too small for a tablet. At least for a tablet that wants to take Apple's crown.
There are no real (significant) benefits for shortchanging yourself on those 3". Neither the Tab nor the iPad will fit in a pocket or fanny pack. Both of them are going to require cargo pants or a backpack/satchel of some sort. The difference is, the Tab is actually slightly smaller than the sheets of paper we've grown up reading from.
Too small to be totally comfortable, too large to be totally portable. The Tab is in an awkward place and, while it may end up surprising us all, I don't expect this one will ever see near the success of an equally well-made 9-10+" tablet.
Notion Ink's Adam will be out in either Q4 2010 or January of 2011. It will have a 10.1" display, Tegra 2 processor, Pixel Qi screen, rumored battery life that beats or exceeds the iPad, a brilliant-sounding UI, switchable camera and just about every other bell and whistle you can imagine.
Oh, and it'll be cheaper than the $500 iPad, even with 3G and all the trimmings.
On paper, the Adam we've been lead to believe is en route sounds breathtaking, magical, the gadget every one of us has been waiting for all our lives but never thought would come.
I have my misgivings. I want to believe in the Adam-truly I do. But so much can go wrong here. While rumors of its battery life peg it as fairly incredible, Notion Ink hasn't confirmed anything. A part of me thinks that, if this thing really was meeting or beating the iPad in longevity, they'd be bragging about it already. The "Genesis" UI is also suspect, if only because every piece of software a company describes as "revolutionary" needs to be held to strict scrutiny.
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So there you have it. The market is about to be crowded with iPad competitors. To their credit, it looks like the Enemies of Apple are more on-the-ball now than they were when the first iPhone launched. That said, they still have a LOT to prove before one of them emerges as a clear successor to that lofty crown.