Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 2 January 2012

What the Tablet Industry needs to do to Challenge Apple

On paper there are enough serviceable iPad-alikes on sale to give Apple a real run for its money.  But I'm fairly confident that when the sales returns for the US and UK Christmas quarter are released, it will be the iPad that rules the roost.

You can compare ten inch tablets until you are blue in the face, but you will probably come back to three models.  The ubiquitous iPad, of course, will be one of them, however there are currently two major contenders selling in the UK (probably more in the US) along with a significant number of close also-rans.

For me, the most exciting non iPad ten inch tablet has to be the Asus Eee Pad

Don't be fooled by the keyboard - it's a detachable dock that comes bundled with the tablet which, by the way, is currently the slimmest on the market.  By all accounts it isn't a great keyboard, but you can stick with the on-board touchscreen keyboard if you think that's likely to be better!

Compared to the Apple iPad there are positives and negatives - the processor is a good contender, it has expansion slots (iPad 3, anyone?) but the camera appears to be a lower spec than the next contender, but better than the iPad.  In our house serious photos are taken by me with the digital SLR, with snaps taken with iPhone, HTC or iPad - so I'm not going to lose too much sleep right now, but I realise that the future is one portable device that does away with all the others we currently carry.

The other contender for the Apple crown is the Samsung Galaxy.

This has been around in various guises for a while and was the thinnest ten inch tablet until the Asus Eee pitched up.  Not that being the thinnest tablet is the be all and end all of tablets.  Like the Asus, it's well specified, runs fast and provides a fantastic user experience. 

Both of these tablets are priced around, or even higher than, the iPad, which is a barrier in a fair world.  But this world is far from fair as Apple have looked outside the box and recognised that the floor, walls and ceiling are instrumental in supporting and protecting the box itself.  Anyone buying an Apple device today will quickly find that it works in harmony with any other Apple devices they own, that it shares information between them and eliminates the need to double entry data, photos etc.  They've also made buying a painless experience on iTunes, iBooks, etc.

The other devices have elements of the Android market to access - it may be complete access on these two devices referred to above but whatever, the Android market is still playing catch-up with Apple.

The bit that is missing, though, is the holistic infrastructure provided by Apple's IOS.  It's my belief that Google, maker of Android, needs to sit down with all of the major players in the tablet industry and have a real grown up discussion with them.  Google will need to address concerns from the manufacturers about identity, sure, but all in all they need to have an external environment that is independent of manufacturer, where the owner of an HTC smart phone and an Asus Eee tablet can share one diary, one address book, ebooks and music - just as owners of Apple devices can.

Then we, the consumers, will have a real choice - we can buy Apple or we can buy Android, choosing the individual devices based on needs, spec and budget.  My contention is that if Google and the various Android device manufacturers get their act together in 2012 then by 2014 Apple may be receptive to allowing Apple devices to interact with Android devices - a tall order technologically and conceptually, but it may happen.

The end game, which is nowhere in sight, is that the tablet devices we use to run our lives in the future are all supported by an external network that is independent of Apple, Android or Microsoft. 

I can be followed on Twitter - @RayASullivan

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