Mobile Tablet Race Update for iPad2

2010 was supposed to be the Year of the Tablet. 2011 will truly be the year of the tablet as a)Apple and Steve Jobs have put their imprimatur on tablets with the iPad and its 15million unit sales; b)there is a dirty dozen IT players that don’t want to be iPhone-ed out of the market; c)the delayed but now operational crucial CPU hardware from NVidia with the Tegra 2[and lots more] and Qualcomm with Snapdragon- these chips add  CPU oomph while still delivering low power/long battery life tablets; and d)the basic OS software is at least keeping pace with the even faster hardware improvements.

Motorola Xoom with docking station left, standalone right

And sure enough, at CES2011 and several other creative IT shows,  dozens of tablets in various forms have appeared on the market. But before you become overwhelmed with too-many, me-too tablets – look at  5 of the serious contenders for your dollars. The  first and leader is Apple’s iPad- this tablet  sets the base level of features which the new tablets must be able to deliver:
1)10hour++ full workday battery life;
2)less than 2 pounds in weight;
3)1024×768 plus 130DPI screen with bright color even in sunshine;
4)multi-touchscreen with simple gestures to operate;
5)WIFI, 3G+4G, HDMI, USB, connectivity;
6)Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Proximity sensor smarts;
7)App programming interface with tens of thousands of apps.

These are non-trivial capabilities which many of the `new`tablets fall short on. So the table below adds to the pioneering Apple iPad specs a profile of  the HP TouchPad with webOS, Motorola Xoom with its high standard of new features, the rumored Apple iPad2 upgrade and the RIM Playbook with some winning features on weight and speed. Examining the table shows how far out of date the first Apple iPad is relative to its competition. Apple iPad is missing over two dozen features that the HP Touchbook  Motorola Xoom,  RIM Playbook largely provide. But the next generation Apple iPad 2 will likely close the features gap [shown in yellow highlight where there is uncertainty]. But it is also instructive to note how well RIM’s Playbook does in the comparison garnering 10 best features.

FeatureApple iPadHP TouchPadMotorola XoomApple  iPad 2RIM Playbook
Price [32GB+3G+WiFi]$729$600$800$729$600
Screen Size9.7″ –
1024 x7 68
9.7″ –
1024 x7 68
10.1″ –
1280 x 800
9.7″ –
1024 x768
7″ –
1024 x 600
Screen Resolution132 DPI150 DPI132DPI170 DPI
Camera Front/BackNA/NA1.3MP/NA2MP/5MP0.3MP/2MP3MP/5MP
Video Records/PlaysNA/720p720P/1080p480+720p/1080p1080p/1080p
1Core A4
1.2GHz – 2 core
2Core Tegra 2
2Core A5
2Core Tegra 2
Max Store internal/external64GB/NA32GB/NA32GB/32GB64GB/64GB64GB/NA
Size13 x 190 x 24314 x 190 x 24213 x 168 x 2499 x 190 x 24310 x 130 x 193
Battery Life10 hrs??10hrs10hrs10hrs
Dock  Keyboard/RechargeYes/Yes $70??Many/ManyYes/Yes $70Yes/Yes ??
OS – Operating System and Apps
OSiOS4.2webOS 3.0Android 3.0iOS4.3QNX OS
OS Apps/Tablet Apps300k/65k10k/10k200k/1k300k/65k4,000
Flash/Java SupportNo/NoYes/YesYes/YesNo/NoYes/Yes
Full multitaskingNot yetYesYesNot YetYes
Turn by Turn NavigationNAYesYesYesNA
Video ChatNAYesYesYesYes
Sensory Devices
Proximity SensorNo??YesNoYes
Still+Video Camera Features
Camera Front/BackNA/NA1.3MP/NA2MP/5MP0.3MP/2MP3MP/5MP
Video Records/PlaysNA/720p??/??720P/1080p720P/720p1080p/1080p
LED FlashNA??YesYesNA
Image StabilizationNA??YesYesYes
Communication, networking, and connectivity
3G/4GYes/NoYes/??Yes/Yes updateYes/NoYes/Yes
HotSpotNo??Yes, 5 devicesNoNo
USB/SD PortsProprietary/NoYes/NoYes/NoProprietary/NoYes/??
FeaturesApple iPadHP  TouchPadMotorola XoomApple iPad 2RIM Playbook
Color rating system: lowest rating uncertain rating highest rating

Sources of Information
AppleApple iPad specs, iPad2 specs, iPad speculation,  myCellphoneMyTerms
HP TouchPadEngadget PreviewPhoneArena, Know Your Mobile
Motorola XoomDroid-life on Xoom,  myCellphoneMyTerms, Phonearena on XoomSkatterTech on Tablets
R IM PlaybookComputerworld on Playbook, Skattertech on Tablets, Digital Trends

If you carefully follow the table, the first notable observation is how good the new Xoom and Playbook are – they really put the iPad to shame on basic features. So Apple will need to upgrade the iPad soon. Second is the number of categories in which RIM wins the honors for “best of tablets”. The third observation is that a lot of rumours[noted with yellow background highlights]afflict not just the iPad2 but also the RIM Playbook.


In sum, the horse race for Consumer Tablet Supremacy is an open contest. In contrast, the fight for Dockable Tablets and Remote Control tablets are still very open; but Microsoft Windows 7 powered machines are the early leaders. So all along the tablet spectrum, Apple has serious challengers. And if Mototrola or RIM falter – Acer, Asus, HP, HTC, LG, Samsung among others have serious contenders too.