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The (Mostly) Sad Fates of 32 First-Generation iPad Rivals 270

Posted by Soulskill
from the competing-with-vaporware-is-easy dept.
harrymcc writes "Back in August of 2010, I rounded up 32 tablets — existing, announced, and rumored — that weren't the iPad. So much has happened to tablets since then that I decided to revisit my list and look at what happened to all 32 contenders. The results aren't pretty, but they do provide plenty of evidence that competing with Apple was far harder than most companies expected."
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The (Mostly) Sad Fates of 32 First-Generation iPad Rivals

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  • by symbolset (646467) * on Friday September 30, 2011 @05:26PM (#37572270) Journal

    One of those tablets became the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. It's a gorgeous little Honeycomb tablet (currently 3.2.1) with IPS widescreen display and a docking keyboard option. It uses the dual-core nVidia Tegra 2 processor, 1GB RAM, and has a selection of ports you're unlikely to find all of on most other tablets: SDHC, microSDHC, miniHDMI, dual USB. Build quality is great and the color and texture are very nice. It has Flash and Netflix now, the full Google Android experience. The speakers are just awful, but there's really nothing bad about it otherwise. On Amazon 500+ people have given it an average of 4 stars [amazon.com]. It's not been discounted much ever off its original $400, and appears to be selling quite well. I bought one and couldn't be happier about my return on investment - no fiddling with alternative flashing and rooting. It just works.

    The next-gen version is likely to be one of the first quad-core "Kal-El" Tegra 3 tablets out this year, and rumor has it the one dock will work for both and battery life will be even better than the current 8-16 hours.

    So not all of these were disastrous it appears. At least somebody got it right. I hear the Acer Iconia Tab is doing well too at its new $400 price point. Yes, the vast majority of the initial round of iPad challengers were quite wide of the mark. But we seem to be narrowing in on a family of choices that can move a lot of units at their various price points. Amazon's Kindle Fire looks to be interesting at $200.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Yeah, I tried the Transformer at a trade show when it first came out and it seemed pretty good. I just couldn't think of a reason why I'd want to buy it over a netbook that cost half as much.

      • I bought one and really like it. It's a nice choice if you really want a netbook, and maybe sometimes to use a tablet -- which turns out to be precisely my preference... aside from seldom using it outside the dock.

        The main advantage over a netbook that costs less would be the IPS screen and battery life. All the same, to be honest -- I think I would have been just as happy or more so with a netbook or chromebook, which would also have been thinner and lasted a bit less on battery, but not been quite as
      • I just couldn't think of a reason why I'd want to buy it over a netbook that cost half as much.

        15-16 hours of battery life when docked is a pretty compelling argument. Also, it's convenient to use undocked while lying down comfortably.

        The downside is that stock browser sucks on Slashdot (very laggy when typing comments). But, this being Android, you can just use Firefox or Opera Mobile.

    • by jmac_the_man (1612215) on Friday September 30, 2011 @05:39PM (#37572400)
      Seconded. I'm a huge fan of the TF-101, and it's amazing how every time one of these HURF DURF NOBODY BEATS IPAD articles comes out, somebody always mentions the Transformer. It's a shame that the earthquake screwed up their initial production run so badly and that Asus didn't market it the way they could have. I know I've sold at least two people on it by just popping the screen off and handing it to them to show them a photo or something.
    • by BlueStraggler (765543) on Friday September 30, 2011 @06:13PM (#37572758)

      Honeycomb 3.2.1 IPS widescreen docking dual-core nVidia Tegra 2 1GB RAM SDHC miniHDMI dual USB Flash Android no rooting quad-core Kal-El Tegra 3

      This post explains everything you need to know about why Slashdot simply doesn't get tablet computing, and probably never will.

      • by symbolset (646467) *

        I did mention the user reviews in that post, and down below I rate it "Toddler tested, toddler approved." It runs all the Android apps from my phone - full screen and beautiful detail, and I don't have to buy them again. All my content is "just there". This is slashdot, and specs are appreciated. I know calling out specs isn't the Apple way: it's gauche. But here it matters, and this isn't an iPad.

        I didn't call out that with widescreen, movies look far better than on the iPad. I didn't mention that wi

        • by T-Bone-T (1048702)

          Apple has improved on their purchase policy. You can download things you've purchased without having to buy them again now.

      • by marsu_k (701360) on Friday September 30, 2011 @06:26PM (#37572932)

        Honeycomb 3.2.1 IPS widescreen docking dual-core nVidia Tegra 2 1GB RAM SDHC miniHDMI dual USB Flash Android no rooting quad-core Kal-El Tegra 3

        This post explains everything you need to know about why Slashdot simply doesn't get tablet computing, and probably never will.

        Yes, I guess we should all be satisfied with "4:3 is the best aspect ratio ever, we don't need any extra connectivity, and if the media is not available in iTunes we shall not want to watch it".

        • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Friday September 30, 2011 @11:10PM (#37574524)
          I believe the point that was being made, which you seemed to have missed, is that the vast (and I do mean vast) majority of users don't care how much RAM their tablet (or phone) has. They don't care what processor it has. They do no care. Sorry to all the geeks out there who think that stuff is vitally important but the reality is that it is not. What does matter is that the device works, works well, and that the user enjoys using it. That simple. And, until geeks start to figure that out, companies are going to continue releasing products to compete with the iPad that have superior specs but end up failing utterly on the market - consumers don't care about specs.
          • by ozmanjusri (601766) <[aussie_bob] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Saturday October 01, 2011 @12:00AM (#37574710) Journal

            I believe the point that was being made, which you seemed to have missed, is that the vast (and I do mean vast) majority of users don't care how much RAM their tablet (or phone) has.

            And those people don't read or post on Slashdot.

            They still love Transformers though. I started out using mine to take notes at client meetings, and I'll swear the thing is as infectious as the flu - every time I go back to those places, half a dozen people will be waving Eeepads at me saying "Look, I got one too!"

          • by arose (644256)
            But a sizeable portion of users absolutely do care about a gorgeous screen that has an aspect ratio well suited for movie watching, particularly if the can snap it onto a dock that let's you plop it down on your lap or desk and gives 16 hour battery life. Users do care about specs, if not spelled out ones, least Apple would have no reason to beef up with the iPad 2.
          • by t2t10 (1909766)

            What does matter is that the device works, works well, and that the user enjoys using it.

            And these specs are what makes the device work, and work well. And it's been selling well too, at about half a million units and selling out quickly.

            See, unlike Apple, where one size fits all and specs don't matter because your only choice is to buy or not to buy (kind of like the Soviet Union), there are dozens of Android tablets and that's why the specs matter. Also the specs for the connectivity matter, because bu

          • by Trogre (513942)

            I care.

            And I think you'll find that most of the people who visit this site do too. Remember we are not the vast majority of users, and know that 170MB for an android phone that you know is going to have several apps running at once won't cut it.

            Most folks will just ask questions at the local Buy More or the geniuses at the Apple Store. Heaven help them.

          • by MobyDisk (75490)

            that the vast (and I do mean vast) majority of users don't care how much RAM their tablet (or phone) has.

            I think that is a misunderstanding. They certainly care: just give them something with 16MB of RAM and a 100Mhz processor and they will know that it sucks. They may not be able to quote the numbers, but they most certainly care. But since this is a technical discussion, and we are comparing tablets to the iPad, it makes perfect sense to quote the specific figures.

      • How? It's not about the hardware at all. Every tablet listed had buckets of hardware options, but they failed because every single one was a poorly thought out and was buggy a shit (because face it, Android and its apps are buggy as shit)... a common reactionary response to Apple's clearly planned vision. Purely reactionary "throw money at a problem we don't understand" behavior. Amazon is probably the closest competitor to the Apple vision because Amazon is working on its own version of the future. Th

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Question: what makes this device more appealing to you than a much better priced netbook? I asked because I looked at those and the average I saw with the keyboard dock was around $550. What I got instead was this EEE netbook [amazon.com] which lets me run all my x86 software, gets 6 hours on the battery (If I use the full OS, it also has ExpressGate built in that lets me surf, listen to the tunes or watch videos off the HDD, and adds about 2 hours more to the battery) holds 8Gb of RAM, and cost me a whole $300 off of T

      • If I want a Windows netbook my wife has an Acer Aspire One, so for my household I guess it wasn't an either/or thing. I agree that the new Brazos netbooks are pretty slick. But I have no use for a netbook. I've got several laptops, and around a dozen PCs set up around the house, servers in a closet and the garage. The whole house has wifi coverage, gigabit Ethernet to every room and a 50mbps cable Ethernet Internet uplink. There's no shortage of PCs here - I'm in the business, have to carry at least on

  • The G-Tablet goes for around $250 nowadays and is among the better devices supported by VEGAn-TAB [gojimi.com] and CyanogenMOD [cyanogenmod.com].

    The stock ROM bites, though, and the lack of GPS, magnometer, and limited LCD screen viewing angles might be an issue for some. But I'm pretty happy with mine.

    • I too am very satisfied with my gTab which I picked up for around $280 from Woot in March. However one thing to note though is that Viewsonic is almost certainly not going to provide an official Honeycomb build. This is an issue because we need some binary drivers to get hardware acceleration working in third party HC based ROM's. Personally I've stuck with the Gingerbread based VEGAn-TAB ROM mentioned by the OP (and overall I'm happy), but if I were purchasing a new tablet today I would opt for one with

    • by symbolset (646467) *

      I have this one too, and can confirm the above. The stock ROM bites, and having no experience flashing Android devices thought I had bricked it for a few weeks until I had time to read up. Now that I've fixed it I can see that it's really hard to actually make the thing unflashable, but finding the right firmware sets and drivers to get the job done is not a trivial challenge for the average person.

      It seems unlikely Viewsonic turned a profit on these - they're selling through Woot now, probably bought re

  • That's why I waited (Score:4, Interesting)

    by markdavis (642305) on Friday September 30, 2011 @05:35PM (#37572354)

    I waited patiently for the Xoom WiFi before buying a tablet. I am glad I did. A lot of pre-Xoom products looked interesting, but lacked one or more of the following: solid OS, large name manufacturer, real (capacitive) touch screen, good compute power, decent amount of memory and storage.

    It was too expensive... but so was and is the iPad. I didn't want an iPad, and now the Xoom is $100 less and LOTS of Tegra II, 10" honeycomb tablets are available. Perhaps too many! And Amazon's recent product intro and the success of the Touchpad firesale has FINALLY shaken up the market and prices are starting to drop rapidly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      And Amazon's recent product intro and the success of the Touchpad firesale has FINALLY shaken up the market and prices are starting to drop rapidly.

      Prices are dropping rapidly for companies who are throwing in the towel and dumping their stock. It's not a sign of a healthy market. The only interesting thing that has happened in the tablet market so far is Amazon going after tablets (and by tablets I mean the iPad) from the low-end through the ebook reader market.

      • by markdavis (642305)

        But HTC just slashed the price of their Flyer 7". Motorola dropped the Xoom price by $100. Other strong players are following too that are not exiting the tablet market and not giving up.

        My point was that the manufacturers took notice how quickly and insanely people went after tablets when the price dropped enough. They will probably shift into a smaller profit margin with a larger volume type sales model now. Consumers will win. This is generally a good thing.

        • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Friday September 30, 2011 @06:01PM (#37572620)

          They are definitely getting smaller margins, but they aren't getting the volume they need to make it worthwhile (lower prices to not necessarily equate to higher volume.) Report [businessinsider.com] from back in April :

          "Global Equities analyst Trip Chowdry estimates that Motorola Mobility has manufactured between 500,000 and 800,000 Xooms, but has sold only 5 to 15 percent of them. Best case scenario then, according to Chowdry, is that Motorola has sold 120,000 Xooms; worse case scenario, it’s sold just 25,000."

          And the Xoom is generally regarded as the best of the lot.

          How long will these companies keep trying to get into a market where they aren't making any money ? Slashing prices reeks of desperation especially since components haven't gotten noticeably cheaper and they aren't making the volume to benefit from economies of scale. Like I said the best bet for real competition is probably the new Kindles. Amazon can sell these with an extremely low margin (or even a subsidized price) because unlike all the other tablet hopefuls they can make their money on media sales.

          • And the Xoom is generally regarded as the best of the lot.

            By whom? About the only good thing that can be said about Xoom is that it uses stock Honeycomb, and is thus the first to get updates. But others get them at most weeks later, so it's not a big deal (not as much as it is with 2.x phones). In most other respects, there are better Honeycomb tablets than Xoom on the market today. It just happened to be the first one.

            • by markdavis (642305)

              Actually, there really isn't that much difference between the various Tegra II 10" Honeycomb tablets. Mostly the same screen res, same processor, same speed, same memory, similar storage, etc.

              Motorola did have slow updates at first, but that was also BECAUSE they were first (with Honeycomb). I am not trying to make excuses for them, but they did have a huge challenge trying to get Honeycomb working properly (and so did other early adopters). Things seem much more normal now- over the last few months, I h

              • The difference is in the screen (Xoom one is not IPS, most others are) and available ports. Sometimes also software - e.g. some of them come with Polaris Office, which is pretty good.

                For Transformer, of course, the huge differentiator is its awesome dock - not just for keyboard, but for battery life and extra USB ports and SD card slot. Another, smaller but still notable difference, is that it can read and write NTFS partitions from USB sticks and drives (they've licensed a proprietary NTFS driver for Linux

          • "Global Equities analyst Trip Chowdry estimates that Motorola Mobility has manufactured between 500,000 and 800,000 Xooms, but has sold only 5 to 15 percent of them. Best case scenario then, according to Chowdry, is that Motorola has sold 120,000 Xooms; worse case scenario, it’s sold just 25,000."

            Ah, music to my ears. Another fine tablet soon to be priced at $99.

            Hey, it's still early. There is hope left in the world.

      • It's a Darwinian thing. Nature floats a lot of trial balloons. Some of them work out and are improved upon. Some of them don't. But progress moves forward.
        • "Nature" is quickly running out of companies that haven't soured on the whole tablet thing. It's looking more like an extinction level event.

          • by symbolset (646467) *

            Acer, Asus, Samsung and Moto seem to be making a go of it on some models and are strong companies with huge economies of scale. Hundreds of companies large and small in China are running off small lots of low-end no-name tablets that are doing well in BRIC and on eBay and Amazon. Amazon just launched their own tablet and 90K units presold to end-users on day one isn't too bad a launch for a new product line sight unseen - it's not Apple numbers, but it will do. We see different things I guess.

            Some compa

      • Prices are dropping rapidly for companies who are throwing in the towel and dumping their stock ... The only interesting thing that has happened in the tablet market so far is Amazon going after tablets

        Asus Transformer started selling for $400, $100 below iPad 2. It's at $370 on Amazon now, and there's no "fire sale" - they're on the third production batch by now and going.

  • After using the G-Tablet for a few months, I gave it up in favor of the Acer Iconia. The Iconia runs Android 3.0, has GPS, supports a Bluetooth keyboard and has good viewing angles which G-Tablet had problems with.

    Certainly not as small as an iPad but it's been a pleasure to use. I mainly use it for testing Flash games. I looked at a more than a few of the devices in the article and none of them could compare to the G-Tablet or Iconia.

    • by hmckee (10407)

      Of course, the Iconia wasn't even announced until after the article was published.

  • by hsmith (818216) on Friday September 30, 2011 @05:55PM (#37572550)
    The issue is all these companies crammed shit out the door hoping to capitalize on Apples success with tablets. Yet, they didn't realize it isnt just a tablet, but more. If they would have sat back and built something smart that works well, decently priced they would have had a chance. Hopefully Amazon has taken that and realized what it takes.
    • by PineGreen (446635)

      Yet, they didn't realize it isnt just a tablet, but more.

      Yes, they didn't realize that when you buy ipad, you are sexsiually pleasing Steve Jobs.
      If you buy a non-Apple product, you are not sexsiually pleasing anyone.

      That is the difference.

    • I agree. The major problem was the hurry with which the competition went to market. Apple spent *years* refining the iPad before attempting to sell it. HP and others tried to clone it in half a year, and predictably most of them failed. The survivors will be releasing second-generation tablets soon, and that is when I will judge the strength of the iPad's competition.

  • As an Edge owner, I can say that it is a great device for an enthusiast regardless of iffy reviews and the company going out of business. Android 2.2 is available for it and there is a strong community behind it. It's a little underpowered. It is resistive, so it supports a stylus, and the eInk screen is touch screen as well(and is capable of annotating with the stylus and has a note taking application that is stylus compatible). I got mine from Woot for ~$100 and it was a great investment.
    • by bhcompy (1877290)
      To qualify, it's a great investment for me because I use it in class to take notes on one side and pull up the PDF on the other side. Like I said, it is a little underpowered and it's resistive, so playing Angry Birds isn't going to run optimally. I use it for purely academic uses and some web browsing and such. At the price I got it for, I'm extremely with it for what it does.
  • That's the part I like best. A good third of the devices are "slated" for a release. Some total vapor-ware, others just late and without dynamically changing specifications. That's a very sad, but a completely separate fate. Hard to compete (or even be compared) with an iPad if you aren't yet released.

    I had the same problem with iPod alternatives. An google-found article "Top 5 competitors to iPod touch" had 2 or 3 (yes, you read it right AT LEAST TWO) devices that were not fully spec-ed or yet relea
  • He seems to have missed the Pyramid Tablet [wired.com].

  • When the iPad came out and the /. thread was full of hows and whys other tablets would killing it in the coming year?

    Then they said the same thing when iPad 2 came out.

    How is that going exactly?

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