Until now Apple has had things all its own way when it comes to tablets. But not for much longer. A rash of product launches and announcements means this month will see several new devices become available, with more to follow by the end of the year and into early 2011. It looks as though the tablet wars are about to commence.
Samsung has announced that its Galaxy Tab is to become available on 1 November, and we are expecting Toshiba's FOLIO 100 to appear before then. Neither is a low cost option, with the FOLIO 100 priced by Toshiba at £329 (inc. VAT) for the launching model, which lacks 3G. A 3G model is due at some future point, pricing undisclosed.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab is an even more expensive proposition. Rumours are currently circulating of a price at around £599 for contract-free versions of the Galaxy Tab, with contract prices yet to become apparent.
The FOLIO 100 and Galaxy Tab are premium products with high-end specifications.
The FOLIO 100 is an Android 2.2 device with an NVIDIA TegraTM 2 processor. It sports a 10.1in. capacitive 1,024-by-600-pixel display. There is 16GB of on-board memory and a card reader. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are included. There is an accelerometer and a webcam. Ports and connectors include mini HDMI and USB 2.0.
Toshiba FOLIO 100
Meanwhile the Galaxy Tab has a smaller screen at 7in. with the same pixel count of 1024 by 600. Like the Toshiba FOLIO 100 it runs Android 2.2. It supports 3G, has two cameras with a 3-megapixel unit on the back and a 1.3-megapixel camera for video telephony. Bluetooth 3.0 is present, along with Wi-Fi and an accelerometer. There will be 16GB and 32GB versions with additional support for external memory.
Samsung Galaxy Tab
RIM's newly announced BlackBerry PlayBook won't see the light of day until next year. It doesn't have any mobile phone functions, instead connecting to 3G via a BlackBerry smartphone. There's no word on pricing yet, but we're not expecting it to be a low-cost option.
RIM BlackBerry PlayBook
Apple's iPad is, of course, another option. Currently starting at £429 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only version rising to £699 for the 64GB Wi-Fi and 3G model, this is not an inexpensive proposition, although that doesn't seem to have dented its popularity.
But those of us who want something a little less expensive also have some options. ViewSonic announced its ViewPad 7 some while ago, and last week both Disgo and the fashion chain Next announced their own Android tablet devices, none of which is very far away from being available to purchase.
No price is yet available for the ViewPad 7, but we do know that it will have a 7in. screen, 3G and Wi-Fi, GPS, microSD card slot, Bluetooth, accelerometer and USB. Given ViewSonic's usual market positioning, we don't expect the ViewPad 7 to be a break-the-bank price.
ViewSonic ViewPad 7
The Disgo Tablet 6000 and Next device are both priced. The Disgo Tablet 600 will cost £179.99 and will be available this month. Specifications include a 7in. 800-by-480 screen, Android 2.1, 256MB of RAM and microSD card slot, USB connectors and, rather disappointingly, a 2.5mm headset slot.
Disgo Tablet 6000
Next's offering is more interesting in many ways as it comes to market out of left field from a sector very far removed from technology. Next has not revealed much detail by way of specifications, but we do know that it will run Android, have a 10in. WXGA screen, Wi-Fi and 2GB of storage with an 8GB microSD card also in the frame. It costs £180.
Next's 10in. tablet