iPad Competitor Check-In

So Apple has updated their tablet and appears to be steam rolling any and all competition, so let’s recap where we are in terms of realistic competition to the device.

RIM Playbook: Launched. Receiving lukewarm to negative reviews with the most frequent statement being re evaluate in 3 to 4 months. Not exactly the smashing product launch RIM was probably expecting. The specifics of the launch device does nothing to lessen the biggest weaknesses pre launch; RIM has zero experience selling products in a true consumer electronics retail environment, and their application strategy is a total mess.

Motorola Xoom: Launched. Received very favorable reviews, but got buried in the hype and reality of the new iPad 2. The Adobe Flash advantage is still MIA and tablet specific Honeycomb Android applications are also MIA. All the momentum behind the Android smartphones is not producing specific applications for the larger tablet form factor. Sales of the Xoom are alleged to be disappointed, and Motorola is already hard at work on Xoom 2.0.

Samsung Tab: Launched. Some reviews like the form factor size but the Android phone OS scaled up to a tablet is a mess. And tablet may not be able to upgrade to Honeycomb Tablet Version of Android.

HP WebOS Touchpad: Not launched but production seems ready to start, not vaporware. Probably will have the most complete OS experience but definitely will have the biggest uphill battle in terms of app store awareness and developer awareness. Would be helped by some new WebOS phones being big hits.

Samsung Tab 10.1 Thin Version: Not launched only a non working demo at CTIA. Samsung is still the best hardware vendor equipped to battle Apple. Samsung has the consumer electronics savvy and retail savvy to be a contender. Android Tablet OS’ lack of applications could end up being a critical problem.

Any Windows 7 based Tablet – DOA

Nokia Windows 8 based Tablet – Currently complete vaporware waiting for a 2012 release – sometime of the OS.

So how do we handicap this race?

Everyone seems to be jumping on the Android bandwagon failing to recognize that carriers have driven the adoption and rise of Android. Tablets are a totally different animal and a lot of customers don’t want another data bill from their carrier. To sell tablets, you are going to need to sell them in Best Buy. HP and Samsung are best equipped to do that but they are using different operating systems so there is no chance of combined synergy. If the WebOS was available to Samsung then you could see those two companies really challenging Apple, but working at cross purposes from an application standpoint it’s hard to see how HP can get momentum going with Web OS. So, right now for the remainder of this year the biggest challenger to the iPad appears to be a Honeycomb Samsung 10 inch tablet with a hypothetical vastly improved tablet focused application library.

Now, there is one last wildcard to be played in this tablet handicapping race. Apple is scheduled to present iOS 5 at their WWDC in early June. Almost nothing is known about what is coming in terms of features, improvements, and APIs for developers. Apple could drastically improve the OS functionality (especially in terms of cloud data management) and add a host of new features. Apple upgraded the hardware, it would be no surprise if the OS got improved.

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