Tablet computers are not new, but the early tablets "never took off, because
they were all pen-based," said Richard Doherty, principal of market watcher
Envisioneering (Seaford, N.Y.). "Until the Archos [a year-old line of
touchscreen tablets from London-based Archos Inc.] and now the iPad, you had to
have a stylus to make them work, which made you feel like an extra in a hospital
movie. They never seemed natural. Fingertip touch is what has made the
difference, and that is what Apple has opened the door on."
The iPad's phenomenal success has every major OEM and ODM plotting to
out-iPad Apple, much as Android smartphones have begun to outsell iPhones.
Fujitsu still reigns supreme in the stylus-input tablet market, with its
dual-purpose laptops that double as tablets, but the next wave of tablets will
take the touchscreen route. Even HP's Slate, which is designed to compete with
stylus-based Fujitsu in the professional market, will allow touch input.
model designed to fit the usage patterns of 17- to 22-year-old tablet users at a
price point of $249 has multiple docking options, including HD
It's hard to fault the logic of the touchscreen tablet copycats. After all,
more than 2 million iPads were sold in the first 60 days; 8,500 native iPad apps
are now available and have already been downloaded more than 35 million times;
and Apple's iBookstore has already served up more than 5 million downloads,
prompting five of the six biggest U.S. book publishers to sign up with
While iPad look-alikes are already appearing on the market, smart vendors are
also exploring alternative price points, feature sets and form factors to
address markets that Apple has overlooked or considers outside the mainstream.
The Cupertino giant is vulnerable to vendors that differentiate their tablets on
the basis of usefulness, cost savings or convenience.
"Apple has sold a lot of iPads in a very short time, but they are still just
a small piece of a very big pie," said ABI's Orr. "You are going to find a lot
of differences in price, a lot of differences in display size, processor
architectures, operating systems and LAN and WAN connectivity, as well as in how
content is discovered and made available to the user."
For consumers, the main variables will be cost and size, said Doherty. "Even
Samsung will probably grow up one of its e-books into an iPad competitor," he
said. "We know that Apple has a five-inch iPad prototype, but Archos was ahead
of the iPod and they are ahead of the iPad, since they already have three-,
five-, seven- and nine-inch screens. There are also several Chinese ODMs that
are ready with both iPad-sized, 10-inch models and smaller, five-inch