Are the new Android-pads real iPad competition?

December 22, 2010

The tech world is beginning to fill with Android-powered tablet computers, just as it is already full of hordes of different Android phones. Are any of them real iPad competition, or just a nuisance?

It has been interesting to watch the smartphone world overflow with over 100 brands and models of Android-powered phones, none of which can manage more than a couple of percent of smartphone sales, but which taken together make big numbers. It appears that the same strategy is invading the tablet computer arena, with “new” clone tablet after “new” clone tablet appearing in advertisements. None of these, including the once-vaunted Samsung entry, are making much headway against the real deal, which is still the iPad in the minds of consumers.

A Computerworld story lauds the virtues of the latest (?) Android onslaught, including entries from Samsung, Archos, and Viewsonic. They all appear to be just more of the same. They are all too small, except one of the Archos models. They are all copies of the basic iPad concept, of course, as are all tablet computers at this point. And they all run the ubiquitous Android operating system, as will most tablets that hit the streets in the near-term time frame, and thus all will be saddled with the good parts of that operating system and the bad part, as well, including the utter lack of version control or user interface continuity.

None of them are likely to make a huge impact, for those very reasons. They will forever be grouped into the category of Android tablet clones, as were the hundreds of available PC clones in years past, and none of the Android tablets will hit the big time because there is nothing special about any of them. They may be perfectly serviceable tablets, of course, but will only be champion material to those that belong to the lunatic anti-Apple fringe.

The utter lack of innovation available in the Android tablet world will insure that, one by one, there will be no stars but taken all together they will have a presence. They will be noticeable only because they are ordinary and numerous, like ants. If the iPad is to be challenged, it will be by a WebOS-powered tablet, or maybe even a RIM entry into the marketplace, but those devices are not yet ready to sell, so we’ll have to wait and see who becomes the first challenge to the iPad.

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