Pads, Tablets and Slates: There’s Not Just One.

Go on, cave in and get yourself a shiny iPad. You’ve been hankering for a device like that since the Apple rumour mill started working you over in the middle of last year, and you were sure it was the only device you ever wanted once Mr Jobs dropped the proverbial iBomb back in January. I mean come on, it’s not like there’s any other options available to you is there? If you want a highly portable, large touch screen device you’re pretty much stuck with Apple, and you might as well sell your soul to the covenant of Steve Jobs whilst you’re at it. If you only have one choice you might as well be happy with it, right?

<Cheesy French accent> WRONG! </Cheesy French accent>

I wish my satirical take on what I can only describe as Apple Fever was as far away from the truth as the iPad is from being the only device capable of doing what it does. Thanks to their aggressive PR and rabid fan base every other tablet/slate/pad device that has been announced or even released over the past 6 months has been lost in a white wash of iPad fandom. The cult of Apple will almost always trounce these other devices as copycats or half baked attempts to steal Apple’s thunder when in fact some of them were in development long before the Apple rumour mill was whipped up into full swing. Today I’d like to take you though the 4 (yes FOUR) other options that are either available right now or will be in the next couple months.

The Joo Joo:

An idea spawned by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington this 12 inch slate has had a troubled birth as it went from being called the Crunchpad to the Joo Joo after a deliciously dramatic bit of controversy. After several delays and dismal pre-orders they finally managed to get some actual hardware out the door, albeit at the most unfortunate time when everyone else in the world was collectively soiling themselves over their new iPad. It probably hasn’t helped that the custom software for the Joo Joo has been met with lackluster reviews leaving this potential iPad contender floundering in the wind. Still it shows that despite the hype there are alternatives available, should you be willing to subject yourself to an inferior experience.

Archos 9 PC Tablet:

Ah Archos. These guys have been around for quite a while now (over 20 years to be precise) and made their name initially selling peripherals for Commodore Amigas.  Shortly afterwards though they dived into the world of portable media players and more recently have been making their name with their slew of MIDs and netbooks. The Archos 9 PC Tablet is in essence a fully fledged computer as it comes pre-installed with Windows 7, which realistically puts it in the UMPC category. Reviews so far have been less than stellar mostly due to its (relatively) slow processor and so-so screen. Give it another iteration and I’m sure Archos will be a serious contender for the iPad, especially with those hungering for more functionality. It is also available for purchase right now.

OpenPeak OpenTablet 7:

OpenPeak isn’t a name you’ll instantly recognise, mostly due to their devices being re-branded by the carriers they sell them to, but they’ve got a bit of a record for delivering some pretty stellar products. Their latest work is the OpenTablet 7 which boasts its own custom UI and apparently thousands of applications ready for it. Whilst it is not yet available previews of the device have been well recieved and the specs of the device are extremely impressive (1080p front facing camera? Wow) with oodles of connectivity this might just be enough to convince the tech crowd that tablet devices are worth giving a second look to.

HP Slate:

First seen brandished by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer back at CES the HP Slate is probably the most mysterious of all the tablet devices out there. Recent leaks have shown quite a bit more information about the iPad competitor but with nary a hint of release date or price its still up in the air on whether or not its serious competition or just a swipe at Apple by Microsoft. On a technical level though the HP Slate seems to win out and since its announcement I’ve had my eye on it for demonstrations of my up and coming application Geon, since its one of only 2 tablets on the market (that I can see at least) that will support Silverlight applications out of the box, and the only one that seems any good at the moment.

Honestly I was hoping to tread all over the iPad’s reputation by showing it up with all the alternatives available. However after doing a bit of digging I’ve come to realise that all the options available now have a long way to go before they’re actually worthy of being called competitors and the devices being released soon are already up against an army of 300,000+ iPad warriors. Frankly the only competition thus far resides in the HP Slate and time will tell if the Microsoft/HP partnership will be enough to take away the mind share that Apple has gained.

5 Comments

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  1. Yeah the slate looks good, but it is the only 2nd gen e-book/tablet reader available (well perhaps the kindle should be 2nd gen & apple 3rd as I remember crappy early e-book readers a decade ago)

    I think you’re wrong to accuse everyone interested in an iPad of being an apple fan boy. In fact its rather insulting, but typical of the holier than thou attitude you so often see on too many tech sites ala slashdot. There simply arn’t that many apple fan boys to explain the interest, and like the ipod, most people don’t care about who made it. It will be a best seller simply because its the easiest and best choice available.

    I’m holding off till the book companies have made their choices and got deals in place, & I’d love a few extra features like good handling of PDf’s and text copying, but it’s hard not to see the iPad just steam rolling everyone else out of the way in coming years.

  2. Andrew: the kindle has all the features you describe and more (handles text and pdf well, does highlighting, annotating, dog-earring etc), and yet you have the gall to call it a 2nd gen ebook reader and the iPad 3rd gen? Please, go ahead and tell us one way in which the iPad makes a better ebook reader than the Kindle.

    Some points of comparison for iPad vs Kindle DX
    1. Battery life: iPad ~10 hours, Kindle DX ~1 Week
    2. Readability: iPad – Backlit LCD (yeah, just like your computer… woo), Kindle eInk (same readability as real paper)
    3. 3G wireless access: iPad – Must have $$$ contract + extra charges for roaming overseas as per your contract, Kindle – Free, works worldwide (where there is 3G coverage)
    4. Library: Both good overseas, though both shit for us Aussies. Blame the publishers.
    5. Dimensions: iPad 24 x 19 x 1.3cm, kindle 26.4 × 18.3 × .97 cm
    6. Weight: I – 730g K – 540g

  3. The confusion between a Tablet PC (iPad, Slate, et al) and eBook reader is something that appears to be rife amongst the current iPad fans. Whilst the iPad might make a quite decent eBook reader it is by no means in the same league as the Kindle, Nook or Sony Reader due to them being sole function devices that have already captured a very large section of the market. Those who are buying the iPad purely for its eBook capabilities are in the minority and are most likely Apple fans to begin with. Anyone who really wanted an eBook reader already has one of the devices I already mentioned.

    I don’t know how you managed to draw the conclusion that everyone who is interested in the iPad is an Apple fan boy, unless you took my first paragraph seriously. More I was making the point that whilst Apple can make the claim of having the most successful tablet appliance out there they aren’t the only game in town, as many of the non-tech oriented news outlets would have you believe (since they won’t cover the other ones). This is due in part to their highly devoted consumer base who does a lot of their marketing for them and no doubt the majority of the current iPad sales are from this crowd.

    I’d agree that it would be hard to not see Apple steam rolling everyone out of the way, that is of course if you were unaware of the other options. Currently the iPad is capturing a great deal of mind share but I still can’t put my money on it being the run away success that people are trotting it up to be. Time will tell if this prediction is right or wrong but for now I’m sticking to my guns that the iPad will find its success in whatever niche it finds but the media revolution it is supposed to bring in isn’t going to happen.

  4. Brett – I like the kindle, I’m highly tempted to buy one, but while e-ink is cool, you’ve got to say the way books can be presented on the ipad is next gen stuff. Take a look at what childrens books are up to – http://gametheorist.blogspot.com/2010/04/ipad-and-children.html

    For non-fiction books especially that promises a whole revolution in type, and any fiction book that references real-world stuff (like the new dan brown ‘The lost symbol’ will face a lot of possibilities for a better experience.

    Right now, I’d probably get a kindle, but the ipad is pushing e-book readers in the direction they need to go, and a much better platform for reading the news/watching the web (ala twitter) on the go than a kindle. Like an early ipod, the ipad has its flaws (though surprisingly few), but its made some pretty big steps (of which weight/battery life are side issues) and moving in the right direction.

  5. As for your link, colour me unimpressed. Children’s books and games have existed on computers for the last 20 years. They often contain dialog AND moving images. Sometimes, they turn them into something interactive, which we call a computer game! Imagine that!

    In terms of having interactive elements inside literature, we call that HTML and it is used to construct things we call “web pages”. Often these pages will have “hyperlinks” to other content which is relevant. Sometimes it even includes images and video. Imagine that! Sorry to condescend, but this is nothing new, and nothing to be impressed by.

    You can’t just wave away 10 hours battery life and no way to replace it as a “side issue”. Battery life is of massive importance to an eBook reader, especially if it is to have any hope of being a decent replacement for the book itself.

    When you are on a plane, train, or where ever you may find yourself, the last thing you want to have to do is plug in your book after 10 measly hours. Sure, you could keep an extra battery around but… oh damn its not replaceable. Guess you need a second iPad?

    In terms of being an actual, functional book replacement, the Kindle shits on the iPad. It has a long enough battery life to last several long haul flights. You can dog ear, annotate, clip and highlight text. It’s readability is on par with a real book and the eye strain the same. You can pull down new books wherever you may be, without paying an arm and a leg in roaming costs or hunting down wifi. All of these the iPad lacks.

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