As the industry reels, who will recover first?
This is not a good time to be any tablet-maker but Apple. The iPad 2 is cheap, powerful and packed with apps. Apple currently controls 90% of the tablet market, and they won't cede a point of that easily. So what currently announced tablets have a shot at carving a chunk out of the iPad's thick hide?
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1. The Xoom. Never underestimate the value of two months worth of hype and a "win" at CES. If any non-Apple tablet has made it into the average Joe's brain, chances are it's the Xoom. Being the first tablet to Honeycomb 3.0 doesn't hurt either. The first wave of Xoom's sold very quickly, although not in great numbers.
Motorola's main handicap here is their price. $800 unsubsidised is too damn expensive for an entry-level tablet. And I don't give the Xoom great odds on capturing the 'luxury' tablet market. Right now, this tablet's best bet for success in the Year of the iPad 2 is to push its LTE compatibility. Connection speed may be the only area where the Xoom has an absolute advantage over the iPad 2.
2. The HP TouchPad. The new HP / Palm TouchPad was the most exciting tablet I saw at MWC 2011. WebOS is built for powerful multitasking, and the TouchPad's UI reminds me of a larger PlayBook. HP has also given us a beautiful tablet, with an enormous amount of power resting in that 1.2 GHz dual-core processor.
The success of this tablet will come down to HP's marketing. Palm's old ads for the Pre were disastrously bad, and since 2009 webOS has been hard-pressed to make an impact on the consumer consciousness. The TouchPad will never "kill" the iPad. But if HP plays to the strengths of webOS, I can see them drawing in a very healthy, loyal user-base.
3. Acer's Iconia. These may be the best-looking Android tablets on the horizon right now. Acer has a name that will be recognizable to anyone who has purchased an inexpensive laptop or netbook, and the aluminum unibody design will draw their thoughts to the MacBook. Acer has the marketing prowess and distribution network to make the Iconia a success.
Price will be crucial here. If Acer launches their Honeycomb slate at a price that can actually compete with the iPad 2's $499 entry point, I see good things happening. Worth noting here is the now $399 iPad, which will be stiff competition for even a $499 Android tablet.
4. The Galaxy Tab 10.1". Samsung may be the only manufacturer capable of facing Apple head-on right now. Motorola blew it with a wildly high price tag, but Samsung seems unlikely to make the same error. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has the features to stand up next to the iPad 2 without looking shabby, and a design that will excite any potential buyer who touches it.
And yet, this promising tablet suffers from the same fatal flaw as every other iPad-"killer". A lack of apps. Until Android tablet apps get out of the hundreds and into the thousands, Apple will have an overwhelming advantage in the eyes of most consumers.
5. LG's Optimus Pad. I still can't decide if the Optimus Pad is a gimmick or brilliance. But the fact is, it has two features that no other tablet, including the iPad 2, can claim. First off, it supports 3D recording and playback.
3D TV hasn't taken off yet, but the tablet form-factor may be just what it needs to gain in-roads into public acceptance. And this (so far) unique capability will help the Optimus Pad to gain publicity from the media.
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The Optimus Pad's other unique feature is its narrow frame. No other tablet- including the iPad 2. For typing, for one-handed reading, for any browsing task you care to name, the Pad is the most comfortable slate out there. And that could go a long way towards winning it a market.