Just as a fun little aside, I thought I’d publish a comparison of several of the Tablet devices on the market today, or shortly to be released:

DEVICE HARDWARE SOFTWARE/

CONNECTIVITY

PERFORMANCE
HP TouchPad – $500-600

Processor:1.2-GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon

Storage: 16 or 32 GB

RAM: 1GB

Cameras: 1.3-megapixel front-facing, no rear camera

Dimensions: 9.45 by 7.48 by 0.54 inches

Weight: 1.6 pounds

OS: webOS 3.0

DLNA: No

Wi-Fi/3G/4G: Wi-Fi only, AT&T version coming soon

Bluetooth: Yes

Ports: micro USB, no SD card slot

Battery Life: Approximately 8 hours under heavy use; closer to 9 or 10 hours under casual use conditions.

Javascript Test Results Average: 4128.47 ms

Motorola Xoom – $600-800


Processor: 1-GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2

Storage: 32GB

RAM: 1GB

Cameras: 2-megapixel front-facing; 5-megapixel back-facing camera

Dimensions: 9.8 by 6.61 by 0.51 inches

Weight: 1.56 to 1.6 pounds (depending on version)

OS: Android 3.1 (Honeycomb)

DLNA: No

Wi-Fi/3G/4G: Wi-Fi, Verizon 4G (eventually)

Bluetooth: Yes

Ports: micro USB, HDMI-out, microSD

  • Battery Life: Approx. 8 to 8.5 hours
    Javascript Test Results Average: 2170.6 ms
Apple iPad – $400-$730 (where available)


Processor: 1-GHz Apple A4

Storage: 16, 32 or 64GB

RAM: 256MB

Cameras: None

Dimensions: 9.56 by 7.47 by 0.5 inches

Weight: 1.5 to 1.6 pounds

OS: iOS 4.3

DLNA: No

Wi-Fi/3G/4G: Wi-Fi, 3G (AT&T)

Bluetooth: Yes

Ports: Proprietary

Battery Life: Approx. 10 hours

Javascript Test Results Average: 3305.9 ms

Apple iPad 2 – $500-830


Processor: 1-GHz dual-core Apple A5 custom-designed

Storage: 16, 32 and 64GB

RAM: 512MB RAM

Cameras: front and back-facing

Dimensions: 9.5 by 7.34 by 0.34 inches

Weight: 1.33 to 1.35 pounds (depending on model)

OS: iOS 4.3 (iOS 5 coming fall 2011)

DLNA: No

Wi-Fi/3G/4G: Wi-Fi, 3G (AT&T or Verizon)

Bluetooth: Yes

Ports: Proprietary

Battery Life: Approx. 10 hours
Javascript Test Results Average: 2163.3 ms
RIM BlackBerry PlayBook – $500-700


Processor: 1-GHz dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP

Storage: 16, 32 or 64GB

RAM: 1GB

Cameras: 3-megapixel front-facing, 5-megapixel back-facing

Dimensions: 7.6 by 5.1 by 0.4 inches

Weight: 0.9 pounds

OS: PlayBook OS (QNX)

DLNA: No (RIM claims it’s coming soon)

Wi-Fi/3G/4G: Wi-Fi, 4G versions to come (though some carriers are backpedaling)

Bluetooth: Yes

Ports: micro USB, HDMI

Battery Life: Approx 7.5 to 8 hours

Javascript Test Results Average: 2362.6 ms

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – $500-600


Processor: 1-GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2

Storage: 16, 32 and 64GB

RAM: 1GB

Cameras: 2-megapixel front-facing, 3-megapixel back-facing;

Dimensions: 10.1 by 6.9 by 0.338 inches

Weight: 1.25 lbs

OS: Android 3.1 (Honeycomb)

DLNA: Yes

Wi-Fi/3G/4G: Wi-Fi only (AT&T 3G coming soon)

Bluetooth: Yes

Ports: Proprietary; no SD card slot

Battery Life: Approx. 9-10 hours

Javascript Test Results Average: 2188.9 ms

Data © Wired magazine

Images found all over the open web

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In January of last year, I posted an article about CES, the reality of “innovation” and its place in the marketplace, and a look into where tablets and e-books came from (“ A Consummation Devoutly to be Wished ” – 01/10/2010).

A couple of months later, I posted a more in-depth review of some of the emerging tablet alternatives to Apple’s iPad (“ Tablet Computing: What Should You Do? ” – 04/06/2010).

It’s heartening to report, coming out of the 2011 CES, that most of my predictions and reviews have survived the shakeout, and are now being touted as frontrunners in the increasingly crowded race for market share. For a compelling rundown of some of the best tablets on offer at CES, check out Endgadget’s chart and links, highlighting their favorites (including my predicted – though not comprehensively admired – Dell, Kno, Lenovo, Notion Ink, and Vizio picks).

As I said over a year ago, Tablet devices will not only supplant netbooks (done), but also laptops, in time. This will be followed, in short order, by the demise of desktop towers – replaced by tablets, hybrid (tablet/laptop) devices, and docking systems that integrate them into home and business networks. Ignore them at your peril…

If you want a device that can do a pretty good of chopping veggies, opening bottles and cans, extracting small screws, cutting paper, sawing small pieces of wood (very small), chiseling even smaller pieces of wood, and picking your teeth…then the good ol’ “all-purpose” swiss army knife is what your looking for! It may not be the best at any one of those things, but then you just want something that covers all the bases adequately, right? Who knows what you’re going to want to do at any given moment, and you want to be ready to do it all, right? It’s not as if today’s individual actually has the time to plan their activities and intentions in advance, is it?

However…

If you know what you want to do in advance, and you’re the type of person that prefers to focus on one activity at a time, with minimal distraction, then it stands to reason that you should select the best tool for the job. For example, if you have a particularly thick steak that you wish to enjoy eating, your swiss army pocket knife is going to be a messy and challenging device to deploy, resulting in a less than exquisite dining experience. A well-crafted, high-quality, high carbon stainless steel knife is the only option in this case. It does one thing…reeeeaaally well.

iPad: The Victorinox of tablet devices.
Kindle: Yup – the steak knife.

I do not want my car to have email functionality on the driver side; I do not want my oven to do my laundry; I do not want my book to play movies. Not yet. Not until the car drives perfectly, the oven bakes beautifully, and the book reads crisply. I prefer my devices and tools to be as cost effective, robust, elegant, and functionally precise as possible, so that I may have the liberty to develop a relationship with my products that assures me the highest degree of satisfaction, at the best price.

At a moment in time when consumers are desperate to bring order to the chaos in their lives, when people are eager for simplicity; when companies such as Flock and Pip.io are growing their user base of evangelists intent on collapsing the layers in their social worlds…why isn’t Amazon’s marketing department focusing on the fact that their product is built for one main purpose, and it accomplishes that purpose with an elegance that the iPad’s multifunctional personality cannot pretend to approximate, except perhaps via the Kindle App itself? The e-ink differentiator is a worthy advantage, I agree, but perhaps it’s time to focus on the big value advantage: the Kindle knows what it’s supposed to do and, a few minor tweaks notwithstanding, it does it very well.

I know where my steak knives are. I use them regularly. I have a Swiss Army knife, but have no idea where it is…never use it anymore.

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Now that everyone who couldn’t bear to wait is feverishly pawing their new iPad (or not), I want to take a few moments to explore the possibility of alternatives.

I’ve admired Apple for the longest time, largely for its design and brand marketing savvy. The company’s innovative techniques have forced the hardware and software industries alike to eschew complacency, at the risk of alienating a very demanding consumer-base. However, I believe that the iPad, while it will certainly not damage Apple’s bottom line (Apple  apparently sold more iPad units on its opening day than it sold iPhone units back in June 2007, when that device was launched*), may well contribute to some overdue redress of the perception of the brand, versus the reality of its product line value.

There’s no denying that Apple has made some innovative products, and its oligarchy has ensured that attention to detail and robust design standards have remained mainstays in the development of all hardware and software offerings. However, the company’s commitment to closed systems, proprietary elements, and “walled garden” disdain for open standards has served to goad competitors into an increasing frenzy of responsive innovation. The result has been that the gap between Apple innovation and mainstream industrial emulation has narrowed sufficiently these past few years, so as to position several competing brands almost neck and neck with Apple on this, their latest release.

Blackberry, HTC, Motorola, Palm, and Google have all come out with multitouch interfaces for their handheld devices, in the wake of the iPhone. While few of these brands offer a truly competitive alternative to the Apple iPhone OS, with respect to UI and application experience, this gap may no longer exist with the Tablet. Here below are a few possible competitors to the early bird iPad:

WePad

Neofonie’s 11.6” display has much going for it, and is *apparently* going to hit the European market in less than a week. however, the absence of any video footage of note makes one pause…Here are some pictures, at least:

 

Lenovo IdeaPad U1

For those who can’t decide between a netbook and a tablet…there’s an app a device for that:

HP Slate

Competitively priced, and with some of the features that lots of people are moaning are lacking in the iPad:

Microsoft Courier

If Ballmer is able to deliver on the promise held within these demos, things could get really exciting:

Dell Mini 5

Multitasking, small form factor, data AND phone AND camera…:

Dell Mini 5 walk thru

ExoPC Slate

They call this a “finger driven PC”, and it certainly has some interesting specs:

ICD Tablets

Innovative Converged Devices has created a full size (called the VEGA), and a mini tablet (the ULTRA), depending on your carrier preference (the VEGA will be sold via T-Mobile, while the Ultra will go to Verizon). The full size gets my motor running more so than the mini, but the mini is certainly worth a look, if portability is one of your top priorities:

Notion Ink Adam

Saving the best for last, Notion Ink has managed to accomplish what I have been dreaming was possible: to marry the text reading superiority of the Kindle (e-ink), the user flexibility of the iPad, and the multitasking capability of some of the the other tablets mentioned above:

So where does this leave Netbooks? Given that companies like MSI, best known as netbook manufacturers, are set to launch their own tablet devices later this year, I predict that with the rise of tablets, we will see a relative decline in netbook sales. It won’t happen overnight, and devices such as Lenovo’s IdeaPad will certainly cater to those of us who want a little bit from both worlds, but as Android and other mobile OS technologies evolve, and multi-touch and resistive interface technology refine themselves, I think netbooks and laptops will be left with greatly reduced market share.

Yet, just when we think that there are enough worthy alternatives out there to permit ourselves the luxury of making a choice, along comes Google (again!) to suggest they may be releasing their own Chrome OS-based tablet

I guess it’s like car-shopping these days: if you need one, get one. If you don’t need one, wait a bit.  Everything seems to change dramatically on a weekly basis, so whatever you buy this week will be trumped in no time. The firm of Amdahl, Nielsen and Moore is hard at work…