Tuesday, August 23, 2011 by Thomas Phillips
This post started out very differently. It was going to at look the iPad and its three primary competitors. Then, out of nowhere, HP announced it was going to discontinue the TouchPad after a month and a half on the market and it was going to shutdown its entire mobile unit. How bad was it? AllThingsD reported that Best Buy had only sold 25,000 units of the 270,000 in their inventory. On August 16th Arik Hesseldahl reported:
Best Buy, sources tell us, is so unhappy that it has told HP it is unwilling to pay for all the TouchPads taking up expensive space in its stores and warehouses, and wants HP to take them back.
Two days later, HP said that it would be shutting down its mobile unit.
So what is left? The Register, a UK based tech blog, has been reporting that there is little interest in Europe for Tablets that are not iPads. With so much uncertainty, is getting any tablet that is not the iPad a safe bet? Can you trust that the other tablets are going to be supported after purchase?
In my opinion, there are really only two options left: The iPad and Android-based tablets. Clearly, the iPad is the benchmark that all other tablet makers see as the biggest competition. Apple sold 500,000 iPad 2s during the first weekend — twice the number TouchPads that HP shipped. Apple has sold 25 million total iPads. With that many units sold, it is hard to ignore its success. The iPad had a lot going for it even before it shipped in 2010. Additionally, the iPhone and iOS brought mobile computing and smart phones to a wide audience. Developers flocked to the phone’s huge audience and robust development tools. Apple is the second largest company in the world. So it’s safe to say that the iPad is not going anywhere.
While Apple is a huge player, there are reasons to look at Android Tablets. Apple keeps tight control over what can be installed on the device. In recent months, Apple has even clamped down on in-app sales. The message to developers: It is Apple’s world and their word is final. This philosophy makes a lot of people uncomfortable.
Google’s Android takes an opposite approach to development. The mobile OS is based on an open source platform that tablet and handset makers can adapt as they see fit. Hardware makers and retails have all launched competing app marketplaces to compete alongside the official Android Market. Over the past three years Android-based smart phones and handset makers have shaped Android to fit their own image. In the more mature smart phone market, there are a lot of choices. The tablet market is still developing. To keep up with the shifting demands of the Android-based tablet market, Google plans on releasing two more major versions of the OS before the end of 2011.
Currently, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the clear front runner. Based on the popular Galaxy S (Samsung’s flagship handset) the Tab has a pretty strong pedigree. Barnes and Noble’s Nook Color takes a radically different approach to the tablet space. Instead of scaling up a cell phone, the Nook Color centers its interface on ebook consumption. The third option is Motorola Xoom. The Xoom is the only Android tablet based on version 3 of the OS. Most reviews gave the hardware high marks, but pointed out that the software design did not feel ready for prime time.
There is also the BlackBerry PlayBook. It has some major limitations. People buy BlackBerries for email and the Playbook (currently) does not have an email application1. You can only get email through the browsers or when it is paired with a Blackberry phone. There were some third party apps, but RIM, the company that owns Blackberry, shut down its app store because of security issues. If you are a hardcore Blackberry user and are strongly committed to BIS (BlackBerry Internet Server) the Playbook should work for you.
Where is Microsoft in all of this? They have stated that Windows Phone 7 is a phone OS. Windows 7 and Windows 8 are going to be the focus of their tablet strategy. Windows 8 is still at least a year away.
Overall, the tablet that will work best for you will depend upon the price, features, and brand loyalty you have towards one of these technology giants.