The iPad got the clear head start on the rest of the tablet-computing market with its release in April 2010, and it already has a second edition, the iPad 2 that was unveiled in March.
But while observers say that Cupertino, Calif-based Apple Inc.’s development of the iPad is not over yet—some suggest new editions could be coming out for the next several years—that doesn’t mean other computer makers can’t and won’t catch up.
“You figure they’re going to take a while to get there, but the difference is going to diminish over time,” says Tom Greaves, the chairman of the Greaves Group, an education consulting firm based in Encinitas, Calif. “I think if you looked out a few years, the tablets will get more mature, and the process is going to get more powerful.”
Tablet computers were the most popular new devices on display at January’s CES 2011, the annual international trade show of the Consumer Electronics Association. Some have already been released for sale, and others are set to hit the market soon. And as more schools and districts explore using tablets, some are beginning to think beyond the iPad.
Here are a few of the other tablet devices available. With the exception of the XO-3, for which specifications are still pending, all have at least 3G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity capabilities, and some form of Android operating system. And unlike the iPad, they are compatible with Adobe Flash Player.
Round Rock, Texas-based Dell has both a 7-inch screen and 10-inch screen tablet. The Streak 7 was launched in early February, with a recommended retail price of $450, according to Dell’s website. The device includes a 1.3 megapixel front camera for video chatting and a rear 5.0 megapixel camera for other photography/videography. The device also has 16 gigabits of internal storage. The Streak 10, with a 10-inch screen and many similar capabilities, was expected to be launched in June, according to industry reports. Both will run off versions of the Android operating system.
The 7-inch screen Flyer from Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, based domestically in Bellevue, Wash., was unveiled in February and was expected to hit the market sometime during the Spring of 2011. The device is the first to be unveiled with 4G connectivity, meaning faster service, and has 1.3 and 5.0 megapixel cameras, like the Dell Streak 7, and 32 gigabits of storage, according to HTC’s website. The device, which uses the HTC Sense user interface, was listed at $900 (including all shipping costs) in Popular Electronics in early April.
The XOOM tablet was released in late February by the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company, and while it was initially expected to retail for around $800, it could be found in late March for under $600 on websites like those of technology retailer Best Buy. The XOOM has a 10.1-inch widescreen, two cameras (2.0 megapixels and 5.0 megapixels), and a battery that Motorola’s website says lasts up to nine hours while the user is browsing a 3G Internet network, and up to 10 hours while browsing a Wi-Fi network.
The Galaxy Tab from South Korean manufacturer Samsung, whose North American headquarters are in Ridgefield Park, N.J., was on the market in September of last year, about five months after the iPad’s unveiling. The device has a 7-inch screen, and 1.3 and 3.2 megapixel front and rear cameras, respectively. Its initial list price of $749 had dropped to $499 on sites like Amazon.com as of late March, and it weighs less than a pound. Samsung was also planning to release 8.9-inch and 10.1-inch screen models in the late spring or early summer.
The XO-3 is not set to be available until 2012, but its backers—the Cambridge, Mass.-based One Laptop Per Child nonprofit group—hope it will have the ability to bring tablet computing to large numbers of underserved children for a fraction of the cost of other tablets. The screen will be all plastic and flexible, and able to adapt to multiple modes of use, from horizontal book reading to touch-screen keyboarding, according to OLPC’s website. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Marvell Technologies is collaborating with OLPC to produce the device. For a cost reference point, XO laptops produced as part of the initiative were purchased for $200 to $250 per device in Uruguay’s 1-to-1 laptop program, according to an official at the nation’s Ministry of Education.