The tablet market is shaping up like a race between the rabbit (Apple) and the turtle (everyone else). Apple has such an incredibly long lead on the rest of the pack, except for maybe Samsung, that it looks like those consumers wanting such a device this holiday will be deciding between either the iPad or Samsung’s Galaxy Tab.
Check out our review of the Galaxy Tab here.
Samsung recently announced that it had already sold 1 million Galaxy Tabs, and Apple reported having sold 4.19 million iPads in its fiscal fourth quarter. Given a lack of options, those numbers are expected skyrocket over the holidays. Cannacord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley recently boosted his projection for year-end iPad sales by 26 percent to 6.3 million units.
“Based on continued strong sell-through trends for the iPad and iPhone, we believe Apple will maintain both market and profit share leadership in these fast growing markets,” Walkley wrote in a research note.
Walkley’s projection is in contrast to one issued last month by Ashok Kumar, an analyst for Rodman & Renshaw, who predicted that sales of the popular Apple tablet would fall short of projections by other analysts. Kumar forecast the number sold would be about 5 million as shoppers choose instead to buy a new smartphone or laptop. Either way, Apple and Samsung appear to walk away with the lion’s share of tablet sales this season.
While Research In Motion (RIM) has promised the PlayBook by Q1 of 2011, and Microsoft has hinted at something (at this point we’re really not sure what that is given the cancellation of the Courier project), the bulk of offerings this year are mediocre devices based on Android and Windows platforms, most of which can’t compete with the leaders on either price or quality.
Here’s a quick look at a few alternatives to the iPad and Tab, as well as a couple that might be worth waiting for until after the holidays.
RIM’s tablet, the BlackBerry Playbook, isn’t expected to ship until early 2011, but given the fact that the company just acquired UI guru The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), the Playbook could be a contender. Rumors are putting an 8GB model at $399, with a $100 increase for both the 16GB and 32GB models. Pricing hasn’t been confirmed by RIM. Given all the CrackBerry addicts out there, the Playbook comes with a built-in consumer base, as well as an accompanying developer community and app store.
Check out the video below for what RIM has up its sleeve:
HP Slate 500
The world first got a glimpse of this long-anticipated Windows 7-based tablet when Steve Ballmer briefly flashed it, presumably because Microsoft had shelved its own Courier project. When all is said and done, the HP Slate 500 comes to market as an $800 tablet, with an enterprise bent. Rumors initially had the HP Slate pegged as a consumer-focused tablet that would come to market at right around $450. This is anything but and reviews have been tepid at best.
Here’s a look at how HP envisions the Slate 500 being used:
Part of a line of Archos tablets that range from small to large, the Archos 101 is a 10.1-inch Android tablet and probably the closest competitor to the iPad. It isn’t available in the United States yet, but it’s received better than average reviews from Europe. Prices range between $299 and $350, depending on the model. Archos offers 16 GB and 32 GB models of the 101, which feature upgradeable memory via SD card and both 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Check out the video below for a look at how the Archos 101 stacks up against the iPad:
ViewSonic ViewPad 10
For the consumer straddling the fence between Android and Windows 7, the ViewPad 100 might be the way to go. The ViewPad features a dual-booting mechanism that allows it to run either Android 1.6 or Windows 7. The 10-inch, 16GB ViewPad runs on a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor. Given the processor, the ViewPad should run like a netbook, but if online prices of $699 are accurate, it’s an awfully costly netbook. Those looking more for a tablet with an Android operating system could do better, given that the ViewPad only runs 1.6.
Here’s a video from Android Central for a closer look:
Argue semantics all you want, the 5-inch Dell Streak is being billed and accepted as a tablet. While it’s just under an inch larger than the Motorola Droid X, it seems that 5 inches is the point at which a smartphone becomes a tablet. The Streak received mediocre reviews, most of which could be attributed to the Streak’s ambiguous nature (Is it a phone? Is it a tablet?). The Streak packs 3G, Wi-Fi and is available from Dell for $300 with a two-year contract from AT&T, or $550 without a contract.
You make the call: Is it a tablet or a smartphone?
Wait It Out
To be sure, there are a lot more options out there, most of which run Android and are available for under $300 at major retailers across the United States. However, after doing a little digging, most consumers will find that these are the kinds of tablets that get reviews, with phrases like “almost unusable” and “don’t waste your time or money.”
For those who do go the cheap route, the most they’ll be able to expect is an eReader that might be capable of surfing the Web and playing a video or two. For those with a modicum of patience, this might not be the right time to buy a tablet. Aside from the iPad and Tab, one could argue that the tablet market is still all about early adopters, which means there’s a lot of stuff out there the average consumer wouldn’t want to touch.
Europe and Asia are getting most of the new tablets before the United States. Whether that’s because of carrier participation or pricing is unclear, but we’re sure to see more offerings coming to U.S. shores in the next six to 12 months. With HP promising a WebOS-based tablet and others like Acer also promising big things in this space, you can rest assured that the tablet market will only improve from here.