This week we found out the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy Tab would be hitting Verizon for $599, with a $20/1GB month data plan, and the Windows 7-powered HP Slate, 10 months after Steve Balmer showed it off on the CES stage, will be available to Enterprise for $799. RIM has the BlackBerry PlayBook coming next year and HP the PalmPad in the pipeline as well.
The baseline iPad 3G is $629 with a $15/256MB month AT&T plan, the baseline Wi-Fi iPad + MiFi bundle on Verizon is likewise $630 with a $20/1GB month data plan (the Mi-Fi isn't built in but can serve as a router for up to 5 devices). At that price, the iPad includes a 9.7-inch screen at 1024x768 , aluminum unibody, 1GHz A4 SoC, 256MB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a 35,000 iPad and 300,000+ strong compatible App Store, the iTunes ecosystem, and a good, tablet optimized OS that's about to become great with iOS 4.2 in November.
The Galaxy Pad boasts a 7-inch screen at 1024x600, 1GHz hummingbird SoC, 512MB of RAM, 16GB+ MicroSD storage, the Android Market (most apps are compatible if not optimized), and an OS that Google hasn't yet optimized for tablets but Samsung has done a great job of embiggening all on their own. And it has cameras.
The HP Slate comes to the table with an 8.9 inch screen at 1024x600, 1.86GHz Intel Atom Z540 processor, 2GB of RAM, 64GB SSD,Windows 7 which means it can run Windows 7 applications, a stylus, a pull out tab with -- we kid you not -- a Windows barcode sticker, and a CTL-ALT-DEL hard button. And it also has cameras.
We don't know BlackBerry PlayBook pricing yet, but the specs don't look too far removed from the Galaxy Tab, albeit with a dual-core processor and the new QNX-based BlackBerry Tablet OS. Native apps will probably take a while to come but their supporting Flash and AIR out the gate so rich internet apps developed on that platform should be good to go.
There's no information on the PalmPad yet, but it will run webOS which Palm aficionados say scales automagically but given the size differences between 3.1-inches and 7 or 9.7-inches we're guessing they'll have to right-size UI elements and probably re-conceptualize the UI in general to make use of all that extra space. (Twitter for iPhone would look really sparse at 9.7-inches which is probably why Twitter for iPad is very different, and the same goes for most apps).
Microsoft has said they're sticking with Windows 7 for the tablet, which means we're expecting Windows Phone 7, with its tiles and panoramas to make an appearance as soon as engineeringly possible -- or at least we're hoping.
Steve Jobs famously -- or infamously depending on your point of view -- said earlier this week that he doesn't think competitors can match Apple's price points. Apple uses the same guts -- from A4 processor to battery chemistry to case machining to core OS development -- across a huge range of products. That kind of internal coordination is unheard of in most other companies and those economies of scale very difficult to match. Jobs accused Samsung and RIM of using 7-inch screens (48% smaller surface area than iPad) in order to keep costs down. However, Samsung and RIM are adding cameras, ports, and other features simply not available in the first generation iPad, and some of them likely not coming to iPad 2 either. (Apple's not adding a ton of ports any time soon, they're moving further way from the power user and aiming squarely at the mainstream with iOS and OS X now.)
Will the Galaxy Tab and HP Slate sell 7 million+ in the first 6 months the way the iPad has? Probably not. The tablet market right now is an iPad market. But it doesn't matter. More Android tablets are coming, and Google is working to make sure either the next version of Android, Gingerbread, or the version after that, Honeycomb, has full support for larger screens. BlackBerry is coming with its BES and BBM. HP is coming with Palm's visionary webOS. And Microsoft just might be there too, eager to own a piece of the Tablet PC market they began and Bill Gates championed for many, many years.
And that's not even counting netbooks, cheap laptops, or Apple's own, newly announced 11-inch MacBook Air.
Steve Jobs might be right. Apple has a huge lead, incredible economies of scale, and the greatest product-savvy CEO in the history of the business. The market could end up like iPod, where Apple built such a lead it now enjoys 70% and everyone else fights for what's left over. Will everyone who wants a tablet, as Georgia has suggested, already have bought an iPad? (Including some of our fellow SPE editors and writers?) Or, given the stakes, is it more likely iPad could end up like the iPhone, where Apple winds up with a highly profitable slice of a gigantic pie, incredible mindshare, and competitors who hunt them, Cylon-like, every step of the way.