iPad competitors once again lining up for CES

CES 2011 starts in just a few days and once again the iPad competitors are lining up to take a shot at Apple's breakthrough tablet. I say "once again" because last year, even before Apple had announced the iPad, rumor of it alone was enough to get Steve Ballmer on stage showing off a Windows-powered HP Slate, and to line the halls with all sorts of in-development tablets based on Android, Linus, etc.

None of those materialized for the mainstream but now that Apple has launched iPad and sold millions upon millions of them, you can bet this year will be different, and here are just some of the players:

  • Microsoft's Steve Ballmer is giving "a number" of slates another shot on stage, this time by Samsung and Dell (HP now has webOS, see below). The SammyPad is said to be similar to iPad but not as thin, allowing for a slide-out keyboard as differentiator. They'll run full-blown Windows 7 but have a layer on top for better touch-computing. [New York Times]

  • HP/Palm's webOS tablet, unofficially the PalmPad, was rumored to be showing up for CES dressed in the old HP Slate duds from last year, but that rumor now seems to have been smashed. Too bad. Palm Pre and Palm Pre Plus both debuted at CES, and a Palm Pad debut would have had interesting symmetry. webOS optimized for the big screen, like iOS was for iPad, could be a serious contender for Apple in usability, elegance, and design -- where it's usually ahead -- so hopefully if we don't see it at CES we'll see PalmPad soon thereafter. Worst case scenario, Palm is focusing on phones, which isn't a bad thing... [PreCentral.net]

  • RIM BlackBerry PlayBook will almost certainly grab a lot of attention at CES. A bold departure from the traditional hierarchy of BlackBerry strengths -- BBOS, keyboards, communication -- RIM's tablet runs their new QNX-based PlayBook OS with UI layers powered by Adobe's Flash. That means RIM can brag about a "fuller" web experience than Apple provides. So, while it might look like an iPad running something akin to webOS, it'll have the RIM brain-trust (and security focus) behind it. For years they've been making fun of Apple's "toys", but putting the BlackBerry brand (and BBM) on the device might just get all those who've had secret iPad lust in their hearts a way to get some PlayBook, and play-time all their own. [CrackBerry.com]

  • Android 3.0 Honeycomb-powered tablets wil probably the biggest, baddest competition coming Apple's way, and Motorola's (DroidPad?) will spearhead that assault. Demonstrated by Andy Rubin last month, the prototype was as big as an iPhone and looked to really take advantage of that extra size. Android apps can split out into pane-views (perhaps similar to Apple's column-views, perhaps more free form like windowed computing?) and who knows what else at this point? We'll also likely see a googolplex of other Android tablets on the floor, shipping with a variety of versions and customizations to the OS, showing again the strength-in-numbers of the platform. [AndroidCentral.com]

There will no doubt be a lot of other contenders as well, some ultra-cheap, some amazingly innovative. Yours truly from TiPb and the rest of SPE, including Dieter, Kevin, and Phil will be on the ground covering the event and will bring you back all the highlights. Which of these devices do you think will be the biggest story and the toughest competition?

Which one do you think Steve Jobs will target the hardest when he takes the stage just a short time later (don't know when yet!) and introduces iPad 2?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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iPad competitors once again lining up for CES

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As big as an iPhone?
Using an ARM system gets you 90% of the way there. The remaining 10% is another 90%, but at least you have a viable system in terms of size and weight with ARM.
Maybe Oaktrail is the elixir that is needed for Windows 7 slates. But I have to imagine that Windows 7 systems will still bulkier and clumsier than the ARM systems.
Apple's got its work cut out for it with iPad 2 and iOS 5. Hopefully they can stay above the others.

I'll say the top contenders are webOS and Android. One holds the visual edge, the other popularity. The tablet war will ultimately be between Android and iOS tablets with webOS coming a close 3rd

shrike i think thats a typo, i think he meant to put ipad. This is going to be an interesting year for tablets and ios 5 with the iphone 5 and ipad 2 should kill. ;)

Interesting phrasing. The Slate materialized, as it WAS released, but perhaps it didn't materialize "for mainstream" because most have never heard of it? Hm.
Anyway, you mentioned "Linus," when I think you meant "Linux.". No biggie for me since I always picture the Peanuts character whenever I see "Linux," anyway, but I thought you'd want to know.
I don't know if the PalmPad hardware rumors I've recently heard are true but they have renewed my dried-up interest in a webOS tablet. My iPad outshines most other mobile computing options I've seen but webOS brings something special to the table...I hope. I still plan to get a tiny lil umpc, though.
Sometimes, nothing but a real computer will do.

Hmmmm, just had a crazy vision of Steve J showing up at CES with iPad 2 an smashing everyone else out of the ballpark.....?????

Let the battle begin, although I like Android is cheapy and weird looking. iPad 2g will beast these suckas. If you compare these electronic devices to food, Android is like a fatty unseasoned christmas ham. iOS is like the rich tasty chicken tostada of small mobile devices. Watch out Microsoft and Google, Apple will unleash excitement and it will change everything AGAIN!

@A.J. your analogy is kind of off...thats still kind of placing Android in the lead in a way. I mean a full Christmas ham is a full ham. It will never fall under a tostada. Even unseasoned (apps) and make it better. But a tostada will be just that. Appeasing to look at and snack on, but ultimately you'll end up having the ham to fill you.

New tablets may or may not be better than a first generation iPad, but they will certainly try to build upon it's success and ui. I just got too tired of waiting for competition, and thought the iPad would be very useful, and it has been. For that, and for being the first tablet to be easy enough for the masses, apple deserves my business, and I probably won't compare tablets for a purchase again for a couple years. But who knows...

I think if HP/Palm could get their act together that they could become a real contender. WebOS is very nice and works well. I think Android will grow but only because they will be priced less than iPad and Palmpad, but the Android pads will be like the phones, fragmented based on the manufactures. The real sleeper is the Playbook. It could pump life back into RIM, but only if it works as well as the demos and if they port QNX based OS to Blackberrys. The size is small and that has advantages for both enterprise and personal use. Microsoft is just not a contender IMO. Windows OS are resource hogs and on small devices they don't have room for the extra resources. Also the Windows 7 phone OS is said to lack polish, lags, and is not as nice as other OS's. I think it take some time (if ever) until Apple is dethroned as the king of pad computing. So I think the order will be:

  1. iPad
    2a. Android
    2b. Playbook
  2. Palm Pad
  3. Windows Pad

Here we go again! Come on iPad was out almost a year with know one able to produce a competitor and now about to release ipad2. Still hearing about the vaporware that these other companies are talking about. General rule of thumb - if everyone tells you that there product is as good as ( in this case) an iPad, then get an iPad not there "as good as " knock off.

@iDavey I stand corrected. That is kind of a biased opinion of food, but I think iPads are probably going to be the nicest looking and easiest UI tablets as any Apple product. As they are now it kills the Galaxy Tab.

Re: RIM: "For years they’ve been making fun of Apple’s 'toys'"
And now Apple is eating their lunch in the enterprise. BlackBerry sales dropped off a cliff in August, and that was in large part due to corporate IT starting to use iPads instead. That's why RIM is in such a panic to rush the PlayBook into production. They've already given up on BlackBerry.

Just a general comment about all the iPad wannabes (and not my own analogy, but I forgot where I read it).
Have you ever seen Elvis in concert? Probably not. Ever see an Elvis impersonator on TV? Probably have. And is there any chance that you could be fooled into thinking that an Elvis impersonator is the real Elvis? No way.
All the iPad wannabes are the Elvis impersonators of the tech world. Close but no cigar. They're doing it for themselves, not for anyone else. Likewise the iPad wannabes are being built just for image. To make the companies' investors think that they should hold on to that HP or Microsoft or Motorola stock. Can they ever beat iPad? Nope. You ain't nothin' but a hound running-dog.

re: "Which one do you think Steve Jobs will target the hardest when he takes the stage..."
None of the above. Steve will be targeting the iPad 1. He's said it before in interviews, his primary competition is the product that he just released the day before. That's the ONE and only that he sets out to beat.
To date, I don't believe there has been a single thing that competitors have done that has influenced the design of the iPhone...just no evidence of it. And, for those of you that might want to say otherwise by pointing out folders and multi-tasking, I suggest you review the initial iPhone keynote in Jan. 2007 when Steve highlighted the iPhone being built using OS X in part because of its ability to so efficiently handle multi-tasking. Enhancements have come later than some may want or expect for two reasons 1) reason to upgrade & 2) Apple's not going to put it in until they feel they can do it the RIGHT way.
So, when Steve gets on stage, he may make fun of new competing 'pads,' but there's nothing that has been announced or rumored yet that has likely caused him any concern. He and his team are a half-dozen chess moves ahead...at least.
The only real competition for iPad 2...all of us who already own iPad 1.