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anticipated 7-inch Galaxy Tab, for example, is compact enough
to slip into a coat pocket, but not your jeans. Samsung claims it's
also easier to type on than the iPad. "The keyboard location is
perfect for thumb typing because of the width," said Gavin Kim,
vice president of content and data ser vices for Samsung Mobile.
Then again, the iPad is certainly more mobile than a netbook,
and its larger display is closer in size to traditional magazines.
When it comes to software, modern tablets tend to run a
mobile operating system such as Apple's iOS or Google's An-
droid. RIM will enter the market early next year with its 7-inch
PlayBook (running on the QNX OS it recently purchased), and
HP will ship a webOS-based tablet likely called the PalmPad.
Microsoft isn't giving up on slates powered by full Windows,
but there's a reason why the company has also rolled out a
variant of Windows CE for slates called Windows Compact 7
Embedded. The masses have already voted with their wallets
that more nimble and efficient platforms will rule.
How Apple Changed the Game
And that brings us to the biggest differences between the iPad
and tablets that came before it. It isn't that Apple just lopped off
the keyboard. The company redefined the user experience,
resuscitating a category many had assumed would forever
remain a niche device for doctors, field workers, and others
who wanted to use a stylus for input. Helping to drive the point
home that this was not your father's tablet, Apple gave the
stylus the heave-ho in favor of an all-multitouch interface. More
important, Apple didn't use a desktop operating system.
"Apple went with a mobile operating system, which really
changed the playing field, because you could have an instant-on
device," said Alexander. The result was a device that you pick
up and start using immediately, which makes a huge difference
for those who want to update their Facebook or Twitter status,
play games, or read digital books or magazines---no boot time
required. Because Apple paired its iOS with its power-efficient
A4 chip, that instant gratification can last up to 10 hours on a
charge. Most touch-enabled Windows tablets we've reviewed
don't last half as long.
Another key ingredient for the iPad's success has been its
App Store, which as of press time stocked more than 25,000
apps designed for its high-resolution display. Apple's 250,000
other apps will run on the device, but they don't look nearly as
good, because you have to stretch them to fill the screen.
How important are apps? Toshiba, which recently launched
an Android tablet for the European market, decided to delay
the product for the U.S. until there was a sufficient tablet app
ecosystem. "Here in the U.S. ---given the iPhone, iPad, and
Android smart phones---there's a very strong expectation of
access to apps and using apps," said Chris Casper, group
manager at Toshiba. "There's an expectation that you are
going to be able to access the same type of apps as on your
Apple won't be twiddling its thumbs as competing devices
emerge, however. The company is rolling out an update for the
iPad that allows full multitasking, folders(for better organizing
your apps), and streaming of music and video wirelessly to
compatible accessories, including the Apple TV. Plus, there's
Game Center, a gaming social network that only further advances
Apple's lead in that category. Add up all of these advantages,
as well as expected sequels, and it's easy to see why iSuppli
forecasts a still-dominant 66 percent tablet market share for
Apple in 2012, down from 84 percent this year.
So it's game over for everyone else, right? Not if you ask
the flood of companies backing Google's Android OS for a
tablet cou nterattack.
The (Next) Android Invasion
By our count, there will be at least a dozen Android tablets for
sale by the end of the year, with everyone from ASUS and Dell
to Samsu ng and ViewSonic betting on Google's open platform.
There's just one tiny roadblock. Google doesn't believe its OS
is quite ready for big-screen devices. In fact, the director of
products for mobile at Google, Hugo Barra, said in September
that "Froyo is not optimized for tablets."
Barra was referring to the latest version of the OS that
Google designed for smart phones. Later versions of Android
(i.e., Gingerbread, but particularly Honeycomb) will reportedly
be built with tablets in mind and are expected to launch early
next year. "Right now if you're an application provider in the
Android world, you're looking at a mix of screen resolutions
and sizes, and a mix of Android platforms," said Alexander.
Because Android supposedly isn't yet ready for prime time,
both LG and Motorola are waiting to launch their slates until
2 011.However, this sentiment isn't stopping the intrepid from
optimizing the current version of Android themselves. Although
Samsung admits that its Galaxy Tab is slightly ahead of the
cur ve in terms of developers offering tablet-friendly Android
apps, the device will access the Android Market. Samsung also
stresses that it has done a lot of its own work in making the OS
a better fit for tablets, from its Media Hub store for movie and
TV show downloads to split-screen interfaces for the Galaxy
Tab's contacts, calendar, messaging, social networking, and
other apps. "We have done custom plumbing, which specifically
allows us to deliver the experience that we want," said Kim.
Other iPad competitors going the Android route are cir-
cumventing Google's objections by bundling their own app
stores. All of Archos' five tablets (yes, five) have its proprietary
AppsLib store preloaded. The company says AppsLib stocks
more than 5,000 free and paid apps, and that it will preload
certain apps on its tablets to get users started. For example,
the 10-inch Archos 101 will come with the Fring video chat
application to take advantage of the device's front-facing camera,
a feature the iPad currently lacks.
Still other Android tablets will differentiate based on features
alone, such as the ViewSonic G-Tablet. Its dual-core Nvidia
Tegra 2 processor and high-powered graphics provide 1080p
video playback (Apple's tablet maxes out at 720p), enhanced
(continued on p. 70)
“When Apple came out of the gate
so strong, everybody went back
to the drawing board. Most of
the plans for Windows-based
devices were scrapped.”
—Rhoda Alexander, director of monitor research, iSuppli
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