Tablets take their best shot at Apple’s iPad
These days, people are still buying laptops, and the iPad’s utter domination of the tablet category seems to be coming to an end with the emergence of new competitors, including the Dell Streak, the Sony Dash, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
The Dell Streak, which has a five-inch screen and runs Google’s Android operating system, is the smallest tablet on the market right now. Its responsive touchscreen offers ample room for surfing the web. One advantage the Dell Streak ($549.99) has over its bigger competitors is the fact that it can be used to make voice calls, so the argument could be made that the Streak isn’t really a tablet, but a big smartphone.
The Sony Dash, however, is a puzzling device. Even a salesperson at a store in Pacific Centre admitted he couldn’t figure out why anyone would buy one.
Is it an alarm clock or a tablet? The menu/snooze button on the top of the seven-inch screen doesn’t solve the mystery. To be fair, Sony isn’t marketing the Dash as a tablet computer. Instead, the company calls it a “personal Internet viewer”—it has a touchscreen and hundreds of apps available for it. But the Dash violates the most important rule for personal devices these days: portability. It must be plugged in to work. So basically the Dash is an alarm clock with Internet capability. Many people with smartphones already use them as an alarm clock, so the Dash doesn’t offer something new.
What the Dash ($229.99) represents is an expanding bottom of the market. It’s possible to find tablets online for under $200. Humphrey Ng, a computer consultant who recently returned from working in Beijing, told the Georgia Straight that by 2011, it will be easy to find tablets manufactured in Asia for under $100.
“They use older versions of Android,” Ng said of the devices, which are already available in China, by phone from his Vancouver home. “Their processing power and the amount of memory in them aren’t very good. They make the iPad look so much better in comparison.”
Microsoft is expected to bring out its own tablet in early 2011. Acer and Asus, best known for their netbooks, are also set to enter the tablet market.
In November, the Massachusetts-based market-research firm International Data Corporation predicted that tablets, led by the iPad, will slow down the growth of the netbook market. In 2011, netbooks’ share of the laptop market could decline as much as eight percent as a growing number of manufacturers like Toshiba—and even those not in the notebook game, such as Research In Motion—come out with their versions of the tablet.
Accountant Jatan Jay has a Galaxy Tab tablet, as well as a Samsung Galaxy phone. He told the Straight he would never consider buying an iPad.
“I had an iPhone and was bored with it after about 20 days,” Jay said by phone from his Langley home. “Apple has always been far too expensive for the money. What you spend on a Mac, you can buy three PCs with the same processing power.”
Jay said he likes the Android operating system on his Galaxy phone and tablet because it allows him to configure his devices to suit his own needs, and he isn’t tied to Apple software such as iTunes.
According to Ken Price, director of marketing for mobile communications at Samsung Electronics Canada, portability was a major factor in the design of the Galaxy Tab. With a seven-inch screen, the device is more than two inches smaller than the iPad. Because of this, it’s easier to read and watch videos on the Galaxy Tab using just one hand, which makes it more attractive than Apple’s version. Among the best features of the Galaxy Tab are its video and still camera, and the editing software that comes with the device, which makes cropping, rotating, and resizing pictures very simple.
Price told the Straight that the Galaxy Tab is Samsung’s entry into a category that hasn’t yet been completely defined.
“Over time, we will see what the next steps will be,” Price said by phone from Samsung Canada’s head office in Mississauga, Ontario.
While there is cellphone capability built into the Galaxy Tab, it’s not yet available for use with wireless carriers’ data packages in Canada. Price said Samsung plans to see if the demand is there for the tablet’s phone features.
“We will have a few months’ advantage over our competitors, who still have to parse out what they plan to do,” he said.
The Galaxy Tab has an advantage in that it’s addressed some of the long-standing complaints about the iPad, such as the lack of camera functions. Samsung has also taken many of the best features of the Apple tablet, such as its calendar and contact lists, and made them look similar, right down to the faux wood background.
The cheapest model of the Galaxy Tab sells for $624.99, which is over $70 more than the iPad’s cheapest version.
Best Buy Canada spokesperson Danielle Jang said the iPad is still the tablet shoppers look for first, but the Galaxy Tab is getting noticed by people who would rather have a non-Apple device.
“There are lots of people who are very loyal to Apple. But there are some people who are exploring both, and what’s great about the Tab is the size of it,” Jang told the Straight by phone from the company’s headquarters in Burnaby.
So far, though, the Galaxy Tab hasn’t made a dent in iPad sales at Best Buy, according to Jang.
But then again, a year ago, the iPad was still just a rumour and almost no one was predicting that there would be so many competitors in the tablet market.