Battle of the Tablets
There are plenty of indications to suggest that 2011 will be the Year of the Tablet. With Apple shipping nearly 15 million iPads in less than nine months, and Samsung weighing in with a further 2 million Tab sales in the last quarter, the omens are propitious. Understandably, manufacturers have been keen to seize on the public appetite for tablets, with the result that both CES and MWC saw a welter of pre-launch announcements: for Apple’s iPad 2, HP’s TouchPad, Motorola’s Xoom, Blackberry’s PlayBook, Huawei’s S7 Slim tablets, HTC’s Flyer, Lenovo’s LePad, Asus’ Eee Series tablets, LG’s G-Slate… the list is (nearly) endless. Smartphones have been a life changing experience for people (and a revenue-changing experience for vendors), and there is clearly an anticipation that the tablet sales in 2011 will follow the growth curve displayed by smartphones in the wake of the iPhone launch; that, essentially, 2010 represented the tip of the iceberg. Although there are many top contenders in the latest batch of tablets, for now I am going to concentrate on my personal top 3 tablets– the Apple iPad 2, the Motorola Xoom and the Blackberry Playbook, highlighting their key features, including processor/OS, hardware, battery, display and resolution. Taking Apple’s latest offering to begin with: the iPad 2 - being thinner, lighter and faster - has a significantly improved specification compared to its predecessor. The iPad 2 is now 33 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter according to Apple and has a 1GHz dual core Apple A5 processor. Although customers expected the iPad 2 to come with a higher resolution, it still gives you the same as Mark 1 (1024×768 pixels on a 9.7-inch LED-backlit display). Likewise, it has the same 10 hours of battery life as its predecessor and will run on its iOS 4.3. However – and this is a key attraction - iPad2 comes with two cameras – front and back and obviously supports FaceTime video calling. iPad 2 models include 16, 32 and 64GB of storage with WiFi and 3G connectivity. This time around, iPad 2 also comes with an interesting accessory - a thin, durable Smart Cover that magnetically aligns itself. Its purpose: a handy stand, which wakes and sleeps your iPad and keeps your screen clean. Oh, and it comes in a variety of bright colours and aniline dyed Italian leather –Apple Style!!! Moving on to Motorola, the Xoom is the first device to run on the Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS designed specifically for tablets with a dual core processor speed of 1GHz. The Xoom comes with a slightly larger display than the iPad at 10.1 inches and with 1280×800 pixels and HD720p display. Compared to the 2.2 Froyo version of Android, Honeycomb is ideal for bigger display screens - the OS was specifically designed with the larger screen size in mind. Xoom has an internal storage capacity of 32GB with a 2 Megapixel front camera and a 5 Megapixel back camera. Connectivity includes Bluetooth, WiFi and 3G Connectivity and can be upgraded to 4G LTE as per Motorola, but we will have to wait and see if it is a hardware update. The Xoom is expected to have battery life on a par with the iPad, with browsing over the WiFi giving you 10 hours of use. However, it is all about the Android Honeycomb 3.0 operating system and all the android fans will have access to the same plethora of games and apps from the Android Market – along with tabbed browsing and Adobe Flash!! Finally, but by no means least – the Blackberry PlayBook. The PlayBook comes with the Blackberry tablet OS and runs on a 1GHz dual core Cortex A9 processor. The PlayBook however has a smaller display compared to the iPad and Xoom – 7 inches – which may mean that it is less attractive for some consumer-oriented applications (such as viewing streamed video). It supports dual HD cameras – front (3M) and back (5MP) along with 1080p HD video recording. Connectivity for the PlayBook includes WiFi and Bluetooth and 3G access using your Blackberry smartphone as modem, while one version will also support 4G access. The PlayBook is also Adobe Flash enabled and is available with memory in 16, 32 and 64GB configurations. Even though Apple currently dominates the Tablet market (the company accounted for around 80% of shipments in 2010) and thus has a clear edge over its rivals, the offerings from Motorola and RIM (not to mention Samsung, HP and the others) will clearly pose a challenge to this dominance of the marketplace. As for how much of a challenge – watch this space for updates!