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Handhelds Apple

The Coming Onslaught of iPad Competitors 497

harrymcc writes "The iPad is selling as well as it is in part because no large manufacturer has had a direct rival out yet. But boy, is that going to change in the next few months. Over at Technologizer, I rounded up known information on 32 current and future tablet computing devices, from potentially worthy iPad competitors to wannabees to interesting specialty devices. By early 2011 these things are going to be everywhere, and it'll be fascinating to see how they fare." Related: the tablet-type device I've been watching most eagerly, Notion Ink's Adam, seems to finally have a realistic manufacturing prediction and price range (by November; up to $498 for the version with 3G and Pixel Qi screen).
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The Coming Onslaught of iPad Competitors

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  • damn.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sejanus ( 18670 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @08:01PM (#33234500) Homepage

    What will I do with 32 tablets in the house?

  • by Zobeid ( 314469 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @08:14PM (#33234564)

    When are all those ARM-based netbooks with Linux that we were promised going to show up? I'll take one with a Tegra 2 processor, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and a Pixel Qi display please!

    I'll pay extra for one in a form factor more like a Macbook Air, with a little extra screen, decent sized trackpad, etc.

    Hello? Anybody out there?

  • by hedgemage ( 934558 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @08:29PM (#33234666)
    I want a good all-in-one reader. PDFs, CBR/CBZ files, Word or Open Office documents... etc. Sure, throw in a media player, but I really just want a book replacement. Most of the ones on the market are limited in scope and frankly, TOO SMALL. Make the screen a standard paper size, make it able to read all kinds of formats, and I will be a happy, happy man.

    Oh, and make it cheap.
  • Windows 7 tablets? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @08:52PM (#33234812) Homepage

    I can't imagine any of the Windows 7 tablets being worth buying. Any x86 chip that can run Windows 7 will burn more battery life and dissipate more heat than an ARM chip. Do you want a heavy tablet (lots of batteries) or a tablet with super-short battery life? I don't. Do you want a tablet with a vent on one side that blows hot air out while you are using it? I don't.

    Of the various ARM chips, the exciting one is the Tegra 2. 8 cores: two ARM 9 cores at 1 GHz each, plus audio DSP, video encode and decode, graphics accelerator, an image processor and an ARM 7 core used for housekeeping. All with a typical heat dissipation of 500 milliWatts, or perhaps less. (I saw a YouTube video that claimed a Tegra 2 can decode 1080P video while dissipating only 350 Watts.)

    The iPad gets its long battery life and lack of a hot air vent from the A4 chip, which is an ARM core of some sort (IIRC an ARM 8) at 1 GHz. I believe the iPad also has a graphics accelerator. Presumably a Tegra 2 chip can smoke the iPad on performance, and it's already good enough.

    Also, Windows 7 was designed for a mouse. Will the Windows 7 tablets come with a stylus for precision pointing? Or will Microsoft make an all-new GUI environment just for tablets? I'd rather just have Android.

    So I'm waiting for a smartbook or tablet with a Tegra 2 and a Pixel Qi screen, running some sort of Linux (likely Android). I had hoped that devices like that would ship this summer but I guess they are delayed.


  • Re:Useless review (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sortius_nod ( 1080919 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @08:52PM (#33234816) Homepage

    I was holding out for an Android device, but realised that almost all of them are Android 1.6. Why would I want a device with an ancient (comparatively) OS. It's usually a sign the manufacturer isn't going to update the device so rooting and custom firmware. This is what pushed me to an iPad. Sure, they are more expensive and locked down, but at least I know it'll be updated for at least 2 years.

    Add to this that most of the reviews around seem to give the Androids a bit of a slamming - poor build quality, bad touchsceens, old OSs, and even buggy software that crashes the OS (looking at you Archos).

    Pretty much, the Android manufacturers are way late to market and only doing a half arsed job.

  • Re:Do not want. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sayfawa ( 1099071 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @09:05PM (#33234892)
    ppffft. I'll be interested when it has pressure sensitivity. Anybody who can draw something halfway decent on an ipad could make something spectacular on a wacom.
  • Re:so... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tharsman ( 1364603 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @09:05PM (#33234896)

    Very likely.

    I'm a iPhone/iPad owner and developer. I have toyed around with Android, and although competitive in the smartphone market, it honestly is no iPhone alternative, not for my business nor for my confort and am not confident of it's potential for a tablet without some huge facelift and heavy hardware requirements.

    At this point I'd say there are 3 companies that can honestly compete with Apple and none seem to be interested in doing so:

    • Sony, making a tablet driven by the same OS that powers the PS3, complete with PSN and it's own online store.
    • Nintendo, making a tablet driven by the same OS that powers the Wii, same as above: with access to it's own online shop.
    • Microsoft, but not with Windows Mobile or any windows based product, instead with the XBox version of their OS. XBox's newest dashboard is even PERFECT to compete with both, the iPhone and iPad if used properly.

    All these things have a very obvious thing in common, one thing that all that jump to compete with Apple don't realize: the iOS is not designed on desktop principles, it's design, intentional or not, is much closer to a video game hand-held who's success is purely due to it's open yet controlled online marketplace.

  • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo ( 1000167 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @09:10PM (#33234928)
    If you're reading CBR/CBZ you'll want color too. If they could put out a reader that did what you stated and could do it in color I'd buy one today. I don't need a backlight draining the battery.
  • Re:History repeats (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PipsqueakOnAP133 ( 761720 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @09:11PM (#33234936)

    I haven't used an OLPC XO before but after watching [] , I'm convinced that "being easy to use, being polished, and being better" in terms of usability DOES get you very far.

    In other words, watching the quick tour of OLPC XO's interface has given me the opinion that Sugar/Linux doesn't get the same attention because it is not easier to use nor polished. I mean, look at that, and look at an iPad.

    For starters, the iPad UI didn't need a bunch of chat bubbles to explain it. Am I really supposed to know off the top of my head what those icons or the circle means? Cuz there certainly isn't anything obvious sticking out at first glance. Like, what's the star trek communication badge icon do? And the shooting star? I'm taking a guess but this has tic-tac-toe installed?

    And I have to drag the mouse to the edge to activate the menu? That's discoverable.... but would be very annoying. (I have a friend who sets at least 3 corners on his mac to trigger Expose. When using his machine, it triggers all the time on accident and drives me nuts.)

  • Business Success (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RegTooLate ( 1135209 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @09:17PM (#33234964)
    The iPad and alike competitors should bet on business communication suites. One which has video conferencing, document presentation and sharing collaboration tools will be the most successful. I would like it if I could do an impromptu video conference meeting with anyone remotely as face to face interaction leads to better understanding and communication. Take the meeting collaboration space, have the pads chirp to each other forming a meeting share where they can present documents live and collaborate in the editing. Combine the video conference and meeting function together so remote operations are included just like person to person. You could make a remote desktop viewer that shares to everyone else. Give us a headphone and mic jack for privacy as well. Make a scrum board that has tasks that are passed seamlessly through the pads and updated live remote and interoffice. That is a sweet pad.
  • Re:Do not want. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2010 @09:19PM (#33234970)

    It's a great controller for DAW's, lighting rigs... It's already starting to change the workflow for film crews. Great device and I'm left looking at the android pads and scratching my head. I'd like to develop in Vala using clutter/Gtk but android is some braindead also-ran platform that requires me to jump through more hoops than the iPad. I looked at all the devices in that list and there's no serious competition for the iPad there.

    The current iPad is underpowered and needs something a bit better than the USB "camera kit" for physical connectivity. If version 2 delivers, it's going to be used for more than control and become an amazingly useful device in it's own right.

  • Re:so... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by painandgreed ( 692585 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @09:55PM (#33235122)

    Yes, like a history of thoughtful design and a slew of devices that work much better than their competitors for normal usage patterns, despite having fewer "and the kitchen sink" features.

    Yes, exactly. I don't think many of the people who use the term "marketing" really understand what it means. It's not just making things pretty and paying for a good advertising campaign which I think most people use it to mean. Marketing begins with determining what the market actually wants. Then determining how to sell it in that market. It's all based on customer satisfaction. People use "marketing" like some sort of pejorative, but in reality, there is no secret to marketing but making the customer happy by giving them a product they are happy with and continue to enjoy. Apple has done this. They do this to the point that people wonder why they would ever want their product at first glance ("No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame."), but once they get ahold of it they like it, tell their friends, their friends buy them, and then when they need another product they trust the company to provide a similarly satisfactory product (at which point we are no longer talking about marketing but branding, which is a different rant).

  • Re:Do not want. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:20PM (#33235288)

    I'll be interested when it has pressure sensitivity.

    Ten One is making impressive strides [] in that regard.

    The iPad is inferior to a Cintiq as a drawing device, but it will be owned by people who would never drop $1000+ on an art tool. It's also portable in ways Wacom devices really aren't. You could just as easily argue "Anybody who can draw something halfway decent with a pencil and a sketchbook could make something spectacular on a Wacom", but pencils and sketchbooks aren't going away either.

  • Re:History repeats (Score:4, Interesting)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:20PM (#33235290) Homepage

    What real-world questions did the OLPC XO answer? I've never used one, so I honestly have no idea.

    Well, I bought one, so I guess I'm qualified to comment.

    I bought mine mostly because I wanted to support the OLPC project and was intrigued by their device. The shining vision was of a rugged laptop with crazy long battery life and a unique screen that is visible in full sunlight. I knew the device would be a tad slow, but I have other computers to use for speed. And I wanted to try out that "view source" key: the idea was that the whole system would be free, open-source software written in Python, and kids would be able to hack their own computers and learn programming (and have fun doing it).

    The reality is that the touchpad on my OLPC just doesn't work right, and the device is glacially slow. I'm not even sure which key is the "view source" key for certain; there is no key with that text on it, and I don't grok whatever icon they used to flag it. And it turns out that most of the XO applications don't support it anyway. (Yet?)

    The magic and romance went out of the project when I realized that the OLPC management was clueless. They never had a solid plan for how they would make and ship as many laptops as they hoped, they let costs balloon out of control, and they managed to make a device that in some ways is the worst of all worlds: instead of an ARM chip they used an x86 chip (an AMD Geode) but the device is far too constrained to ever really run Windows, and did I mention that it is glacially slow. Instead of using an off-the-shelf window manager from 1998, which would have run reasonably fast, they wrote their own wacky environment "Sugar"; I understand their goals with Sugar, but kids are adaptable, and kids would pick up fvwm or whatever just fine, plus it's more important for the apps to have "view source" than the window manager. Then Negroponte announced that OLPC was going to get into bed with Microsoft, and half of the volunteers writing code for the OLPC instantly quit in disgust. Then OLPC announced that they were going to make a new clamshell tablet device with two full color touchscreens and a hinge for $75, and then they announced they weren't going to make it after all. Now they are going to make a tablet like an iPad for $75. Good on them if they pull it off, but I'm no longer paying attention.

    The best thing I can say about the OLPC is that it likely triggered the wave of netbooks that changed the world. I don't know for a fact that Acer looked at the OLPC and said "we can build something like that, less rugged but faster" but the timing is right.

    Take the best ideas from the OLPC (including the screen) and make a tablet. Use an ARM core for a CPU. Cut any feature that would make it exceed the target price; it's great if the thing can do WiFi but really kids could do a lot by swapping memory cards back and forth. Pre-load the thing with useful textbooks and perhaps a subset of Wikipedia. And hire industry experts to manage the manufacturing and distribution. That would be exciting.

    By the end of the year we should start seeing tablets and "smartbooks" with ARM chips, even the Tegra 2, and some of them will have the Pixel Qi screen. So we will be able to buy a device with crazy long battery life and a screen you can read in direct sunlight, and it won't be glacially slow.


  • Re:Do not want. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by keeboo ( 724305 ) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @10:33PM (#33235366)

    Do not want. Any.

    How self-centered and selfish of you.

    No soup [] (tablet) for you!

    That was a perverse episode, I don't think it's an example worth being told in this case.
    Basically, the writers of the show had a personal issue with the restaurant's owner and used the show as a mean to hurt that man's business.

  • Re:Useless review (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vancorps ( 746090 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:18AM (#33236028)

    Of course with the Archos you can install Ubuntu and get rid of the buggy software. There aren't even that many necessary tweaks. I was looking into just that. [] Once you replace the slowass hdd with a half decent SSD you get better battery life and you get a real snappy machine, must snappier than the iPad.

    I've been looking at all sorts of options specifically for controlling home automation systems. I hate the iPad and the lack of options. Wallmounting them isn't too friendly either but that trait is shared by most of them out there. The Archos 8 however is built just for that so it would work well in that environment especially since they don't attempt to lock you out of their hardware like Apple.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2010 @05:40AM (#33236868)

    > If I give you $500 could you make an iPad?

    I would probably be able to produce an ipad for less than $500 if you gave me $500 million to produce 1 million samples. Alternatively you could give me $400 million to produce 1 sample. Or, you could give me $600 million for 2 million samples, and so on...

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas