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.
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.
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 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.
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.