The tablet wars

Last week Expressions looked
at the most anticipated smartphone launches of 2011. This year saw
the tablet computer finally
become fashionable and in the secondof this three-part series, José R. De Souza looks at what consumers can expect next year.

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Published: Sat 27 Nov 2010, 9:20 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:52 AM

A handful of computer manufacturers will claim that they got there first, but the fact remains, and they will readily admit to this, that Apple truly revolutionised the tablet computer market with the iPad. Using a combination of pathbreaking design, slick marketing and Steve Jobs’ charisma, Apple dominates the market even though competitors such as Samsung have launched rival devices that clearly give the iPad a run for its money.

With the holiday season just around the corner, the iPad is one of the most desirable stocking fillers around and Apple’s Chinese manufacturing partner has reportedly opened up fifty new production lines churning out 10,000 devices a day. And in true Apple fashion, this year’s device will be outdated in a few months when it launches the iPad 2, reportedly sometime in the first quarter of 2011.

What can consumers expect from the iPad 2? Going by Apple’s performance with the iPhone, next year’s version will be slicker, faster and, almost certainly, cheaper than the first generation tablet. It will build on the iPad’s weaknesses and is likely to feature two cameras. It is also reported that the second generation iPad will boast a carbon fibre body making it significantly lighter.

After Steve Jobs poured scorn on rival 7-inch tablets, which incidentally have received a number of positive reviews for their portability, it seems likely that the iPad 2 will remain at a hefty 9.7-inches. Rumour also has it that it will feature Apple’s high-resolution Retina Display and a major memory boost.

Moving beyond the iPad, industry analysts have described Samsung’s Android-powered Galaxy Tab as the only other worthy contender currently available. Though Steve Jobs predicted that 7-inch tablets would fail, the Korean electronics major has already sold 600,000 units in the month since its launch and claims to be on track to sell a million before the year is out.

Samsung is likely to go for the Apple’s jugular with a 10-inch device running Android Gingerbread and featuring a Super AMOLED display. Also rumored to be in the works is a cheaper, Wi-Fi only model of the Tab which may be launched in the first quarter of 2011. This should work well for Samsung which has been criticized for the cost of its first generation Tab. Nonetheless, Samsung maintains an optimistic outlook for next year and has gone on record saying that it expects to sell 10 million Tabs in 2011.

Canadian smartphone maker Research In Motion (RIM) is also set for a tablet showdown with Apple. RIM has announced the Playbook, a tablet device targeted specifically at enterprises which is expected to launch in the second quarter of 2011.

RIM has not revealed the Playbook’s full specifications but it reportedly features a 7-inch screen, a 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM, which will probably allow for more multitasking than the iPad. It will also have two HD cameras, one front-facing for video conferencing and a second in the rear for still photos and video recording.

For some strange reason RIM has said that the first generation Playbook will not feature built-in 3G connectivity. Instead users will have to pair their BlackBerry phones to the device for Internet access. The good news, however, is that future models will feature 3G connectivity.

Taiwanese PC maker Acer has also thrown its hat into the tablet ring with a new range of Android and Windows-powered devices that come in three different sizes and are scheduled for launch in the first half of 2011.

All three devices will have Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, while DLNA compliance will allow easy sharing between devices. The highlight of Acer’s offering will be a 10.1-inch Windows 7 tablet, which will feature a docking device that doubles up as a full-sized keyboard.

With so many new entrants into the market consumers would do well to wait for a while before shelling out the big bucks for 2010 iPads and Galaxy Tabs.


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