Ever since the first iPad shipped 15 months ago, computer makers of all sorts have been scrambling to get into the tablet game, writes Harry McCracken for Technologizer who says tablet makers need to figure out 13 things before they can expect to compete with Apple.
1. More or Better Apps. No company comes close to Apple in this area.
2. Noticeably Better Hardware. Some say Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 is there but McCracken is still waiting for a tablet “that blows the iPad away hardwarewise.”
3. Hardware Features That Apple Doesn’t Have. Toshiba’s Thrive, arriving next month, has an SD slot, USB port, HDMI, and a removable battery. McCracken says it’s the most PC-like Android tablet he’s seen so far and the iPad alternative with the clearest identity of its own.
4. A Noticeably Different Size. While less than 15 percent of people say they want a 7-inch tablet, some do. McCracken says the PlayBook is a disappointment and Android 7-inchers like HTC’s Flyer aren’t using Gingerbread yet, but at some point he expects somebody to build a “really nice, up-to-the-minute 7″ Android tablet.”
5. Noticeably Different Software. What software a person prefers is subjective but McCracken says Android 3.1 Honeycomb is quite impressive, and it’s got its own personality. He’s also hopeful about HP’s Web OS as seen on the TouchPad but says RIM’s PlayBook tablet OS needs lots of work. A few tablets that run Honeycomb offer an experience that’s both different from the iPad 2 and enjoyable, he says.
6. Better Entertainment Services. This is one of the most daunting leads Apple has on the competition. “Maybe it’ll be a third party (coughcoughAmazon) who cuts into Apple’s gigantic lead, not a platform provider or hardware maker,” McCracken says.
7. Catering to a Different Market. RIM says its PlayBook is better for corporate use than the iPad but McCracken says it misses the mark by not feeling professional and including things like games, which obviously aren’t for business. Cisco’s Cius, however, has a shot at being a tablet optimized for business, he says.
8. Flexibility That Pays Off. McCracken says he’s still looking for a tablet OS that feels like it provides anything like the degree of freedom he has on a Windows PC or a Mac.
9. Flash: A Platform Apple Doesn’t Support. Most all tablets, except the iPad, support Flash but none do it very well. Instead of buying a Flash-enabled tablet now, McCracken suggests waiting until tablets get better at using it.
10. How to be Cheaper Than the iPad. “Toshiba’s Thrive will start at $429, but that’s not that much cheaper, and it’s for a model with 8GB–half of the iPad’s starting capacity. If Vizio’s upcoming tablet goes for $349 at Wal-Mart, it’ll be a better test of the lure of a lowball price,” he says.
11. Having a Wild Card. As an example, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color is half the price of the cheapest iPad and emphasizes reading, which makes it unique among tablets with color screens and app stores.
12. How to Cash in on Apple Haters. So far, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the best bet.
13. Providing a Magical Combination of Features. If there was a non-Apple tablet with plenty of great tablet-optimized apps, top-notch movie and music services, hardware that was both super-sexy and powerful, a wonderfully intuitive and customizable operating system, and several unique features–all for $399–it might be able to compete with the iPad. McCracken says don’t hold your breath for the near future.
Read more at Technologizer.