The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

Summary: The race to produce a hot tablet that competes with the iPad has not had a winner yet, and it is worth a look at the tablet tableau by platform to see where things currently fall.

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Since the arrival of the iPad on the scene, tablets have been a common topic for discussion. The conversation goes far beyond the tablet from Apple as competitors are busy trying to get a competing product to share the wealth. The race to produce a hot tablet that competes with the iPad has not had a winner yet, and it is worth a look at the tablet tableau by platform to see where things currently fall.

iOS/ iPad

Apple set the tech world on its ear with the release of the original iPad, not only because it was so thin and light, but because it was much cheaper at $499 than anyone was prepared for. This entry level pricing was brilliant in that it virtually guaranteed it would be a success given how good a product it was.

That was followed up this year with the iPad 2, an improved model that quickly sold faster than Apple could produce them. The addition of a rear camera, along with a new form even thinner and lighter than the original kept customers buying the iPad 2 by the millions. Apple's latest figures show it has sold over 9 million iPads, making it clear the iPad has dominated the tablet landscape. The iPad 2 will get even better with the release of iOS 5 later this year which improves the platform for both the iPad and iPhone.

Android Honeycomb

Google's Android OS has only been in existence for a short period but has dominated the smartphone space for a lot of that time. The company's latest figures show that 550,000 Android devices are activated daily, and 130 million of them have been activated to date. The rapid rise of the Android smartphone coupled with the good customer reaction to the iPad led Google to produce Honeycomb, the version of Android designed strictly for tablets.

The first Honeycomb tablet, the Motorola XOOM, was released early this year to mixed reviews. Honeycomb 3.0 was buggy and didn't do Google any favors for the platform. Since the shaky release, two updates have been produced addressing the majority of Honeycomb's problems. The first of these updates Honeycomb 3.1 is now shipping on a lot of the Android tablets available currently. Honeycomb 3.2 is rumored to be even more stable than 3.1, but it is not yet available on many of the shipping tablets.

This fragmentation issue that has plagued Android on the smartphone side is already a factor on the tablet side. Buyers of Android Honeycomb tablets have no guarantee that updates will be released by the OEM and the carrier (for those tablets sold by them). This situation means prospective buyers shopping for a Honeycomb tablet are often unclear on which version of the OS a particular model is shipping with. This is significant on Android tablets given how bad Honeycomb was at release (3.0) and the uncertain nature of Android updates. If you buy a tablet shipping with version 3.1 of Honeycomb, you have no guarantee of getting the already released 3.2 which further fixes bugs.

In addition to having the very buggy Honeycomb 3.0, the Motorola XOOM was rushed to market with hardware components that didn't work, and big promises that the model sold by Verizon would receive an LTE upgrade shortly. XOOM owners are still waiting the availability of that LTE upgrade, and are understandably upset that the just released Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 will be available for purchase in just a few days with LTE integration. Early adopters (XOOM buyers) will not get the first Honeycomb tablet capable of blazing LTE speeds.

Samsung has become one of the top sellers of Android phones, and it jumped on the tablet space with the original Galaxy Tab last year. The new Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the thinnest and lightest 10-inch tablet in existence, having beaten the iPad in these key areas.

Other OEMs have been releasing Honeycomb tablets, with models by ASUS and Acer among those currently shipping. There are innovative offerings like the Transformer by ASUS which has a keyboard dock available that turns the tablet into a netbook alternative. The rash of tablets becoming available make this a mobile segment to watch, as companies are fighting with different hardware components and price. If prices drop low enough Android tablets may start selling in numbers worth tracking.

PC giant Lenovo is preparing to enter the Honeycomb tablet race with a couple of models. One of those is a ThinkPad Tablet aimed at professional workers, and it has features not found on existing tablets. The ThinkPad will bring a pen to the slate, allowing full interaction with the screen by pen along with handwriting on the screen that is converted to text as desired.

Also see: 5 tablets for back to school

There is no clear indication how many Android tablets are selling nor how many have sold to date, but it is almost certain far fewer are selling than iPads. Those of us keeping an eye out for tablets in public rarely see an Android tablet in use, but iPads are literally everywhere. Android is the number one competitor to the iPad, so we need to see these things start appearing in public to prove they are moving in significant numbers. Google's own figures aren't telling a compelling story for Honeycomb tablets.

BlackBerry PlayBook

Beleaguered BlackBerry maker RIM was counting on the PlayBook tablet released early this year to help turn the company around.  Even though the hardware on the PlayBook was viewed as quite good, reviewers of the tablet were surprised to find that core tablet capabilities were missing. Releasing the PlayBook without native email, contact management and calendar functions, all features the BlackBerry smartphone has been famous for, was viewed as a major faux pas by RIM.

Sales of the 7-inch PlayBook have been so poor that RIM is rumored to have cancelled work on the 10-inch PlayBook that was expected later this year. The company's recent announcement of layoffs and executive shuffling don't paint a good picture for the PlayBook's future.

HP webOS (TouchPad)

HP paid $1.2 billion to acquire Palm to get possession of the webOS platform. The recently released TouchPad is the first webOS tablet produced out of that acquisition, and while it shows promise the shaky release hasn't done HP any favors.

Reviews of the TouchPad were uniformly bad at release, due to bugs and performance issues. HP immediately responded that an update was already being prepared to address those issues, and it is expected in just a few days. Inside information tells us this does address the performance of the TouchPad, along with adding some new features.

The TouchPad with webOS is a compelling tablet due to the ability of HP to do something with the product. The company is throwing a lot of engineering and resources into both webOS and the TouchPad, and the potential is there for a good run at the iPad. The combination of technical ability, production capabilities and large distribution system make the HP TouchPad a product line to watch.

HP is going to produce a second TouchPad, a 7-inch version, later this year. The webOS platform as it has evolved on the tablet is a nice alternative to the iPad and Android, and with HP's backing has a decent shot at getting into the enterprise.

Related:

Topics: Tablets, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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35 comments
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  • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

    Where are Windows Tablets and hybrids (Fujitsu, and Lenovo make good hybrids)? Of course, I know, like most of the bloggers here, you hate Microsoft Products, but Microsoft Windows are one of the first in the field and still in use at many places.
    Ram U
    • Yes this is so... I would even go further and say

      @Rama.NET MS created the Tablet market over 10 years ago. Still up until the iPad the over all reaction to the Tablet has been a resounding "ho hum". The iPad shook that bored out if it's mind market awake! All the Android, WebOS, and eventual Windows 8 tablets that have or will follow stand as testimate to this fact.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
    • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

      @Rama.NET I don't hate Microsoft products, I am in fact a MS MVP in the Touch and Tablet category. But until Win8 appears, they aren't a factor in the tablet landscape.
      JamesKendrick
      • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

        @JamesKendrick
        Good to know that you are an MVP. Sorry, I was too quick to blame.
        Ram U
      • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

        @JamesKendrick There once was a day when Microsoft could freeze a market with their future offerings. Remember how disruptive and counterproductive that was? Those days are gone. Apple sits in that seat now, but maybe with less strength than MS had in the 90's.
        Schoolboy Bob
    • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

      @Rama.NET My ASUS Eee Slate seems relavant to this discussion. It's only $100 dollars more than the most expensive ipad+keyboard+case, so it can't be dismissed as expensive, or not in the same category. It is a tablet. It also has Windows 7, with built in gestures and hand-writing recognition that makes it easy to use with touch or pen. Sounds like a tablet to me.
      pelleg
      • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

        @pelleg At that price, yes it can be dismissed as expensive, just as the most expensive iPad combination that you mentioned is expensive. That is not the price point/configuration that is selling like crazy.
        non-biased
  • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

    Computing devices are the only thing I can think of that we have the expectation that even after we buy them that they will improve. Motorola even promised to install LTE at a later date. We buy Honeycomb 3.0 or 3.1 hoping that 3.2 comes out soon. Then when 3.3 comes, we will complain that is is soo sloow.
    davidmpaul
    • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

      @davidmpaul A bigger problem is that buyers not plugged into the tech scene don't even know about updates. That's not a big deal unless the OS version they have has known bugs that have been fixed in a later version. The unwary get unfairly victimized by being sold a tablet (or any device) with a buggy OS.
      JamesKendrick
      • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

        @JamesKendrick
        +1
        Ram U
  • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

    "The race to produce a hot tablet that competes with the iPad has not had a winner yet, and it is worth a look at the tablet tableau by platform to see where things currently fall."
    Yes there is a winner and it is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 which it even surpasses the iPad on several specs, features and performance. I would also include the Blackberry Playbook with the exception of not being a 10" tablet. I just don't understand this obsessive and compulsive (aside for the obvious Apple Head big ego factor) need to have to compare all these devices as supposed to just do a more thorough and extensive review of each one so that consumers can make up their own mind and make better buying decisions.
    rubenb2
    • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

      @rubenb@...

      Um, no. Winner means units sold. Sorry, but the Tab does not even come close. And the Playbook? Seriously?!?
      DeusXMachina
      • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

        @DeusXMachina actually winner means competes with iPad, not exactly units sold.
        grayknight-22253692004129760887070084760051
      • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

        @grayknight<br><br>Uh, no, it doesn't<br>Winner means "sells a significant number of units". If winner merely means competes with iPad, EVERY tablet is a winner, and thus the term becomes synonymous with "tablet".
        .DeusExMachina.
  • tablet choices

    If you want a good tablet, buy an iPad. If you hate Apple, donate $500 to charity. If you hate charities, buy a Honeycomb tablet.
    edifeldman
    • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

      @edifeldman
      I would have inserted:
      If you hate Apple, buy 200 bottles of generic ibuprofin.
      DeusXMachina
  • There are tablets that are as good or better then iPad

    Depends on what your idea of what is important is.
    I for instance don't rate thinness as that important, since for reading I will always use a 6" e-ink reader anyway.

    I have waited for over a year for an android tablet that I felt not only performed as well or better as an iPad, but also without the limitations of the Apple device.
    - which for the record I consider to be:
    # unable to run Flash
    # unable to simply plug in normal USB devices
    # unable to simply expand storage by using a SD card
    # unable to simply change batteries
    # unable to read from storage devices such as ext HDD
    # unable to get apps from outside iTunes

    These are all things which the AT100 -(you get the AT101 Tosiba Thrive in the USA) can do.
    and there are some others can do most of that

    Having had experience with Toshiba's tablets (laptop tablets) of some years ago before apple even had anything on the drawing board I knew Toshiba had perhaps the longest experience of any manufacture with touch screen tablets (18yrs I believe) so I expected they were capable of producing something if they wanted to.

    Even though on paper the AT100 seems simular to several other tablets in spec's, Toshiba's implementation of extra features to allow things like ordinary USB keyboards / mice / thumb drives / ext HDD's and being able to increase storage with a std SD slot, along with its smooth operation just works to make this the tablet that (to my mind at least) out performs the iPad.

    Its thicker body has not been an issue and I find it very comfortable to hold, perhaps more so then the thinner models form others.

    Before anyone trolls my report -
    a) I'm in Australia where it has been released already
    b) I'm not knocking the iPad - I just don't want its limitations.
    toviz
    • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

      @toviz@...

      1) Flash apps run fine on iPads
      2) plugging wired devices into a tablet is just plain silly.
      3) SD card storage is trivial on an iPad. Or you can use a wireless SD card add on.
      4) External batteries for the iPad abound.
      5) Reading from external storage is, again, trivial.
      6) Side loading of apps from outside iTunes has been possible for ages.
      DeusXMachina
      • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

        @DeusXMachina
        I was a little confused by your post. I was under the impression that SD card storage on the ipad was limited to photos. I also thought external storage, like an external hard drive didn't work.
        pelleg
      • RE: The tablet landscape by platform, summer 2011 edition

        @pelleg
        The SD adaptor is FOR photos, but is not technically restricted to photos.
        There are several external storage devices for iOS devices, including the Kingston WID/16GBZ Wi-Drive.
        .DeusExMachina.