iPad Contenders or Pretenders?
It’s been barely a month since the iPad launch that created a whole new personal computing niche. As the dust settles, the first serious contenders are starting to step forward and test the waters. While many tablet computing systems have emerged over the past year, a great many of them during CES, there are really only two that stand out as potential contenders to the iPad. Those two are the JooJoo and the Google Tablet.
You may know the JooJoo from Fusion Garage about the controversy around its inception. Supposedly originally envisioned as the CrunchPad, a dispute erupted just days before it was revealed to the public around the ownership and development of the product. Fusion Garage, who was developing the hardware and operating system, took ownership of the product and revealed it as the JooJoo. Although the ownership dispute will work its way through the court system, the JooJoo is very real and available for pre-order.
The JooJoo differs from the iPad in some very important ways. The first thing critics of the iPad will point to is its screen size and flash support. Whereas the iPad has a 9.7″ screen, the JooJoo screen is 12.1″. The JooJoo also sports full Flash support against the iPad’s total dismissal of it. The JooJoo is also a full pound heavier than the iPad and lacks the option for 3G connectivity. The real disadvantage the JooJoo is at though in relation to the iPad is the lack of development ecosystem. Out of the gate the iPad has over 140,000 applications available to it through the App Store and a whole network of developers working feverishly to supply iPad-specific applications. The JooJoo has no such network. Fusion Garage has announced it will release a development API but who will develop for it? It has to attract developers whereas Apple already has thousands in place.
The other potential contender to the iPad is still only a concept. This week the Chromium open source development group released mock ups of a potential tablet running an as yet unreleased version of Chromium OS. Although there is no direct connection between the Chromium group and Google, many are touting the design concepts as the Google Tablet since the Chromium open source projects are the basis of Google’s Chrome browser and Chrome OS. Gizmodo reported back in January that Google and HTC were partnering on a tablet device. The release of the Chromium concepts seem to confirm these reports.
Although no technical specs have been released on the rumored Google device, I think it would be safe to infer what it is for what the iPad isn’t. That may seem a bit cynical but these days Apple’s real competition isn’t Microsoft, it’s Google and Google is going to do its best to hit Apple where it hurts. Any Google Tablet will run Chrome OS which essentially means an experience defined by the Chrome browser. That means full Flash support in a full featured browser. If HTC is indeed developing the hardware the device will be as sleek with a finished industrial design rivaling the Nexus One.
Google’s distinct disadvantage of course is the Chrome OS. Chrome OS, as demonstrated, is a pure browser-based environment. That means no apps or add-ons that run locally outside of the browser. If you’re looking for a pure cloud-based computing experience this might not be that bad but stacked up against the iPad it falls woefully short. The iPad is positioned as a content consumption and gaming appliance with a vast ecosystem of applications. The best a Chrome OS-based tablet could be is a web browsing appliance. Which, I suppose, would be interesting but not as interesting or versatile as the iPad.
Will the JooJoo and Google Tablet be contenders to the iPad or pretenders to the throne? Only time will tell as the tablet computing market matures. I think either have a lot to do out of the gate to catch up to where the iPad is. What do you think? Leave us a comment and let us know.
By: Erin Peterson
Introducing the iPad
Chrome OS Tablet Concept
Fusion Garage JooJoo Tablet Hands-On