Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mobile Temptations

If 2008 was the year of the iPhone and 2010 was the year of the Android  and  2010 was the year of the iPad with  15million unit sales 2011 will truly be the year of the tablet as a)Apple and Steve Jobs have put their imprimatur on tablets with the iPad and its; b)there is a dirty dozen IT players that don't want to be iPhone-ed out of the market; c)the delayed but now operational crucial CPU hardware from NVidia with the Tegra 2[and lots more] and Qualcomm with Snapdragon- these chips add CPU oomph while still delivering low power/long battery life tablets; and d)the basic OS software is at least keeping pace with the even faster hardware improvements.



And sure enough, at CES2011 and several other creative IT shows, dozens of tablets in various forms have appeared on the market. But before you become overwhelmed with too-many, me-too tablets - look at 4 of the serious contenders for your dollars. The first and leader is Apple's iPad- this tablet sets the base level of features which the new tablets must be able to deliver:
1)10hour++ full workday battery life;
2)less than 2 pounds in weight;
3)1024x768 plus 130DPI screen with bright color even in sunshine;
4)multi-touchscreen with simple gestures to operate;
5)WIFI, 3G+4G, HDMI, USB, connectivity;
6)Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Proximity sensor smarts;
7)App programming interface with tens of thousands of apps.

These are non-trivial capabilities which many of the `new`tablets fall short on. So the table below adds to the pioneering Apple iPad specs a profile of the Motorola Xoom with its high standard of new features, the rumored Apple iPad2 upgrade and the RIM Playbook with some winning features on weight and speed. Examining the table shows how far out of date the first Apple iPad is relative to its competition. Apple iPad is missing over two dozen features that the Motorola Xoom and/or the RIM Playbook have. But the next generation Apple iPad 2 will likely close the features gap [shown in yellow highlight where there is uncertainty]. But it is also instructive to note how well RIM's Playbook does in the comparison garnering 10 best features.
Feature Apple iPad Motorola Xoom Apple iPad 2 RIM Playbook
Price [32GB+3G] $729 $800 $700 $600
Screen Size 9.7" - 1024 x7 68 10.1" - 1280 x 800 9.7" - 1024 x7 68 7" - 1024 x 600
Screen Resolution 132 DPI 150 DPI 260 DPI 170 DPI
Camera Front/Back NA/NA 2MP/5MP 2MP/5MP 3MP/5MP
Video Records/Plays NA/720p 720P/1080p 720P/720p 1080p/1080p
Speaker/Mike Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/Yes
CPU 1GHz 1Core A4 1GHz 2Core Tegra 2 1.2GHz 2Core A5 1GHz 2Core Tegra 2
RAM 256MB 1GB 512MB 1GB
Max Storage internal/card 64GB/NA 32GB/32GB 64GB/64GB 64G/NA
Size 13 x 190 x 243 13 x 168 x 249 13 x 190 x 243 10 x 130 x 193
Weight 730gms 730gms 730gms 400gms
Battery Life 10 hrs 10hrs 10hrs 10hrs
Dock Keyboard/Recharge Yes/Yes $70 Many/Many Yes/Yes $70 Yes/Yes ??
OS - Operating System and Apps
OS iOS4.2 Android 3.0 iOS4.3 QNX OS
OS Apps 300,000 200,000 300,000 4,000
Flash/Java Support No/No Yes/Yes No/No Yes/Yes
Full multitasking Not yet Yes Not Yet Yes
Turn by Turn Navigation NA Yes Yes? NA
Video Chat NA Yes Yes Yes
Sensory Devices
Accelerometer Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gyroscope No Yes Yes? No
Compass Yes Yes Yes No
Proximity Sensor No Yes Yes Yes
PhotoSensitive Yes Yes Yes Yes
Barometer No Yes No No
Still+Video Camera Features
Camera Front/Back NA/NA 2MP/5MP 2MP/5MP 3MP/5MP
Video Records/Plays NA/720p 720P/1080p 720P/1080p 1080p/1080p
LED Flash NA Yes Yes NA
AutoFocus NA Yes Yes Yes
Image Stabilization NA Yes Yes Yes
Geo-tagging NA Yes Yes? Yes
Communication, networking, and connectivity
3G/4G Yes/No Yes/Yes Yes/No Yes/Yes
WiFi Yes Yes Yes Yes
HotSpot No Yes, 5 devices Yes No
NFC/RFID No/No Yes/No Yes/Yes No/No
DLNA No Yes No No
GPS/BlueTooth Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes Yes
HDMI No Yes Yes Yes
Features Apple iPad Motorola Xoom Apple iPad 2 RIM Playbook
Color rating system: lowest rating uncertain rating highest rating
Sources of Information
Apple - Apple iPad specs, iPad2 rumors Engadget, iPad speculation, iPad2 at Tuaw, myCellphoneMyTerms, Tech.in
Motorola Xoom - Droid-life on Xoom, myCellphoneMyTerms, Phonearena on Xoom, SkatterTech on Tablets
R IM Playbook - Computerworld on Playbook, Skattertech on Tablets, Digital Trends


If you carefully follow the table, the first notable observation is how good the new Xoom and Playbook are - they really put the iPad to shame on basic features. So Apple will need to upgrade the iPad soon. Second is the number of categories in which RIM wins the honors for "best of tablets". The third observation is that a lot of rumours[noted with yellow background highlights]afflict not just the iPad2 but also the RIM Playbook.

In sum, the horse race for Consumer Tablet Supremacy is an open contest. In contrast, the fight for Dockable Tablets and Remote Control tablets are still very open; but Microsoft Windows 7 powered machines are the early leaders. So all alomg the for sure, Apple has serious challengers and if Mototrola or RIM falter - Acer, Asus, HP, HTC, Samsung among others have serious contenders too.

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