Apple iPad Contenders or Pretenders?

 In Tablets

Now that Apple has fully shown its hand and released the iPad to public scrutiny, the litany of contenders and pretenders can begin. The JooJoo was first on the scene, followed by the Enso zenPad. Hot on the heels of the iPad release this weekend, Engadget received a leaked internal HP document showing the details of the forthcoming Slate device; widely perceived as the first serious competition to iPad dominance. While there’ll be many, many more tablet devices this year, let’s look at how these three initial devices stack up against iPad. Are they contenders or pretenders?

iPad vs. JooJoo

The JooJoo from Fusion Garage was born in controversy earlier this year. Allegedly starting life as the much vaunted CrunchPad, the JooJoo is a 12 inch tablet device. The JooJoo runs a custom, browser-based operating system, has USB connectivity, and a forward facing camera. It seems that one of the main selling points many of the iPad competitors will trumpet this year is the availability of ports not found on the iPad and the video camera missing from iPadv1. To be honest, I’ve gone back and forth in my head about it as well. I understand Apple’s reasoning in omitting the ports and making external connectivity an option. I understand the argument for having them. In the end, if it doesn’t affect the quality of the device, I don’t think the presence or absence would sway my decision one way or another.

Contender or pretender? The JooJoo screen is 2 inches larger than the iPad. It has a multitouch capacitive display that runs at a 1366 X 768 resolution. It has USB ports and a camera. From a sheer hardware point of view it could be argued the JooJoo is a winner. The problem with this conclusion is the iPad is a more complete package than just the hardware. Along with the hardware comes an experience intertwined with it. The iPad brings a familiar operating system user experience with a catalog of over 150,000 applications. The JooJoo runs a custom operating system closed to development than no one has ever used before. In the end the integrated experience overrules the brute force hardware size approach the JooJoo seems to take.

Conclusion? Pretender.

iPad vs. zenPad

The Enso zenPad snuck on to the scene a couple of weeks ago with little fanfare. A 5 inch device running Android 1.6, the zenPad makes its run against the iPad from a different approach than the JooJoo. While the JooJoo trumpets its size and connectivity options, the zenPad emphasizes how inexpensive it is. It also comes with microUSB and microSD connectivity but Enso is really pushing the fact you can have an Android tablet with GPS and 3G connectivity for $215 USD. GPS and 3G connectivity are optional but attractive at this price point. It would certainly appeal to the price conscious tablet shopper.

Contender or pretender? The zenPad is half the size of the iPad. It runs Android 1.6 which is a positive in that there are a catalog of applications for the device but it’s also a negative. Android is a very splintered and branched operating system. Android 1.6 is an older version of the operating system that exists today as a bare minimum for most of the newest and hottest Android applications. There are promises of 2.x upgrades on the Enso web site but until that happens you’re stuck at 1.6. From a usage point of view, Android still pales in comparison to the iPhone/iPad operating system. Sure the zenPad is cheap and if that rules your spending habits this might be the device for you. I don’t know about you but I may be willing to go to the dollar store to buy a lot of things but my computer isn’t one of them.

Conclusion? Pretender.

iPad vs. HP Slate

This is the heavy weight bout everyone has been waiting for. The HP Slate is HP and Microsoft’s entry into the tablet market. While there will probably be several tablets running the Windows operating system this year, the HP Slate has been crowned as Microsoft’s main champion in the space. Steve Ballmer showed it off at CES, and it has gotten the full court press from both HP and Microsoft. The Slate will be slightly smaller than the iPad (8.9 inch display versus the iPad’s 9.7) but sports a host of connectivity options through USB and SD card slots. It will also sport dual cameras, one forward and one rearward facing. It will run Windows 7 optimized with a custom touch UI overlay developed by HP. The Slate’s vector on the tablet market seems to take a netbook and squish it down to tablet size.

Contender or pretender? The Slate, when viewed in the context of the iPad, is interesting for a number of reasons, none of them good. The first reason I just mentioned. Instead of reinventing and innovating as, Apple clearly did with the iPad, HP and Microsoft just took the innards of a netbook, squished them down as small as they could and threw in Windows 7. Doesn’t that sound appealing? The second reason it’s interesting is the feature list. Between the USB connectors, SD card slots, and dual cameras; it sounds like the Slate was designed off a sheet listing the shortcomings of the iPad. Instead of analyzing the issue properly, HP and Microsoft seemed to have wanted to latch on to the criticisms of the iPad as a selling point of their own device. I’m sure this will bring some people to their side but ultimately it doesn’t make their device any better than Apple’s. Windows 7 running on netbook electronics will be a nightmare and won’t offer anything near the user experience people are reporting on the iPad.

Conslusion? Pretender.

The Winner?

This will obviously not come as a surprise to you but the iPad is still clearly the best tablet device available. Some have bigger screens, some have USB ports, some may even come with six or seven cameras! Adding things, dropping prices, or making it sing and dance won’t make it any better than the iPad. The genius and logic of the iPad is that it combines the elements it is comprised of into an integrated experience that was clearly thought out and produced with all the elements in mind. Sure, Apple could have had a bigger screen but that would have made the device more heavy and unwieldy. Sure they could have added cameras but that would have added to the price. If there is one thing you can trust an Apple device to be, it is well designed with a purpose and intention. They aren’t chasing a list of “must haves” or criticisms of the competition. Say what you will about Apple, they make great stuff. The fact they sold 300,000 units on the first day only reinforces that.

My advice? If you haven’t bought an iPad, save your pennies for one. The JooJoo, zenPad, and Slate are poor seconds to the versatility, design, and ability of the iPad.


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