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back to article CES wrap: let the battle of the tablets commence

Consumers themselves may not yet be willing to commit themselves en masse to the media tablet and set aside the netbook, but manufacturers certainly appear ready to do so. This year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas, was the launching point for uncounted Android tablets. But while Acer launched a new netbook …

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Silver badge

The only feature the iPad lacks is Flash?

It seems a little disingenuous to claim Flash is the only differentiating factor when I've read of devices which have touted such things as:

* Full multimedia support for codecs and containers - full H264, VC1, MP4 ASP, MKV etc.

* Outputs such as HDMI, USB

* Memory expansion slots

* Other peripherals not found in an iPad, e.g. slide out keyboard

* Removable battery

* Different form factors

* Different price points

* All the differences implicit to running another OS such as Android / Windows Phone / Windows

What I do think "other" tablets lack is certainty since they only exist in prototypes, announcements, etc. not in retail. For example there is no Android 3.0 ecosystem so how far do these Android devices fall from the tree in terms of compatibility with each other or existing marketplace apps? How will Windows on ARM do backwards compatibility and support for "legacy" apps like games? etc.

I think when such devices appear in retail we'll have a better idea and I'm sure it will work out but at the moment it's the vaporous nature of these devices which is the biggest uncertainty.

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Anonymous Coward

Get facts right!

* Full multimedia support for codecs and containers - full H264, VC1, MP4 ASP, MKV etc.

Simples: Download VLC or CineX Player from the iTunes store. All these are supported directly!

As for Flash, you could always jailbreak your ipad and install Flash, or use SkyFire - which supports flash via proxy in the US.

iPlayer uses H264, and a number of sites are updating to use HTML5 video so it's not reallya major issue these days.

* Outputs such as HDMI, USB

Simple: Buy an appropriate dock connector and you can have your cake and eat it.

The Camera Connection kit comes with a USB connector.

* Memory expansion slots

I'll give you this, but you can add an SD Card via a dock connector.

* Other peripherals not found in an iPad, e.g. slide out keyboard

You can buy a case that contains a BT keyboard and it serves much the same fucntion.

* Removable battery

The idea of a tablet is the weight and small form factors. While the practicality of having a spare battery is attractive, if you really need to it is just as easy to carry a recharge pack or sleeve as is the case with the iphone, so not a major issue. Besides, as I said, the size is the important selling point of a tablet and adding a couple of spare batteries is going to double it!

* Different form factors

Such as? A tablet is a tablet - you want a smaller one? Buy an iphone or ipod touch - it does the same but is smaller! Lopping off 3" just makes it an oversized smartphone!

* Different price points

You mean like the various price points from the 16gig wifi to the 64gig Wifi+3g?

* All the differences implicit to running another OS such as Android / Windows Phone / Windows

????

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Silver badge

Nope

Read your news MobileVLC got yanked from the Apple store just recently so that Apple wouldn't have to make their DRM compatible with the GPL.

As for your other points I've more or less rebutted them elsewhere. A summary being that people have different needs and requirements and claiming that a single, expensive device meets them all when it plainly doesn't (e.g. lack of HDMI, USB, SD etc) and other tablets do is kind of silly. One size does not fit all etc.

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FAIL

Fail on your part

Well you learn something every day. Didnt know Mobile VLC was removed at the requet of the developer. Nevertheless, there's still Mplayer, yxPlayer and CineXplayer.

As for the rest of your 'rebuttals' - each to their own. The fact is, that through extension and research one can achieve the same results from the ipad one way or another, and wriggling out of it with esoteric requirements for your 'dream device' dont make that go away.

I'm not dismissing other platforms, merely pointing out the inaccuracies of your claims regarding the iPad.

The one thing the other devices lack is software -something that will be remedied, but only in time - and that assumes the ipad stands still and does not alter from it's present configuration.

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The iPad is so great

I need a dock to use removable media! It makes my train rides so much better, having this dock attached in order to read a wider selection of films off this tiny little MicroSD card.

Yesiree, that's a fantastic Apple Experience for you!

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Jobs Halo

Not so easy:

Whereas on my Android tablet, I need to a:

Locate the memory card slot and remove the current card, replacing it with another one - so that I can play said movie. b: Re download al the apps I had on the first card because I havnet enough internal memory to swap or store them internally c: Have a wallet containing all these SD cards.

Who carries their entire media library around with them anyway?

The ipad serves about 99% of what a real life user needs to do, but that 1% of you that need to carry hundreds of movies in MKV and XVID format on any number of different card formats will never be satisifed unless you can essentially build the device yourself...

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You know what's really funny?

My Android tablet does just exactly what i want it to. And I do carry around hundreds of movies on SD cards. I also have all the apps I could ever want installed on the internal memory.

Isn't it amazing what you can do when you aren't blinded by Apple fanboyism. Too bad you will never find out…

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Flame

My peice of paper also does exactly what I want it to

that's hardly an argument though is it?

I can also do exactly what I want to do with my ipad, despite the naysaying that Android fanboys keep chanting.

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@AC

You must not want to do much then. I suppose that's why you need paper!

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Megaphone

Not so similar

The one stark difference between the Microsoft - Google parallel you draw is that we can view and modify Android's source code.

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"Android Source Code"

This is mostly nonsense. Drivers as well as all Google apps are NOT open source, which means that you can do hardly anything with the source code. As others have said, Android is mostly open for the carriers, not for the customers/users.

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Silver badge

Rubbish

You can do a great deal with the source code. There are numerous non-blessed phone, tablet, stb devices running Android and even replacement dists for phones such as CyanogenMod.

Some drivers are open source some are closed. Not surprising as they are the IP of numerous companies to do with as they see fit. The situation is kittle different from what happens in vanilla Linux and certainly doesn't stop someone reverse engineering popular chipsets.

As for Google apps, they are what the name suggests, apps. While it would be nice if they were open sourced, they are not the OS. Alternates exist in most cases, even open source ones.

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Silver badge

Not gone into this in detail but it seems readily available...

http://source.android.com/source/download.html

http://android.git.kernel.org/

"The Android build is routinely tested on recent versions of Ubuntu (6.06 and later),"

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FAIL

Did you even attend the show?

I find it incredible that a review of new tablets at CES doesn't even mention the Adam from Notion ink.

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FAIL

Now this may all be fine and dandy...

But the bottom line is that the ipad has been around for 8 months, and the Samsung for three. But there is really nothing else.

Tegra 2 has also been around for several months, as have IPS screens and even Pixel Qi's, but no one has been able to put a decent tablet on a shelf in a store. Come to think of it, is there anyone other than NotionInk planning on using Qi screens ?

I don't really want to get sucked into Apples distortion field, and I've been putting off buying a tablet because of the lack of choice, but come march or april I suppose I'll have to fold and get an iPad 2, since I don't think anyone will have anything decent available .

Apple has been scathed many times for making overpriced gadgets, but they seem to be the only ones that are able to get any product to the market if they put there minds to it. Samsung, Sony, Acer, HP, Dell et all only seem to be able to put out press statements and pictures.

I think they really dropped the ball on this one.

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Bronze badge
Happy

An alternative....

"...but come march or april I suppose I'll have to fold and get an iPad 2, since I don't think anyone will have anything decent available ."

You could decide, like me and many other people, that an iPad is just a toy and you can manage without one - and spend five hundred notes or so on something useful?

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Silver badge

I wonder about Pixel Qi

Notion Ink models with Pixel Qi are far too expensive. I realise economies of scale or other issues may be playing a part, but the entire purpose of Pixel Qi was cheap LCDs and it seems to be the exact opposite at the moment. It's too bad because it would be hugely advantageous if more tablets offered a high contrast low power mode.

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Gold badge
Joke

Android honeycomb sounds yummy

But can you get with your Nectar card?

Seriously this certainly looks like De ja vue all over again.

The probable next move would be that with Microsoft finally having a market leader it can copy and use it's financial muscle against it will start to "innovate" (as in copy/acquire the better features of its competitors and incorporate them into itself).

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iPad's big lack

The big problem with the iPad, from my point of view, is the lack of USB or a card reader. It would be an ideal device to take away and use for viewing photos in the evening. But his Jobsness' obsessive-compulsive determination to maintain iTunes control over the device prevents this. It is a media-consumer but Jobs makes getting media onto the device incredibly difficult.

On the plus side, it is beautiful :)

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Camera Connection Kit

While it's not built in, there is an adaptor available which I find works very well for exactly this purpose.

http://store.apple.com/uk/product/MC531ZM/A

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Happy

get yerself down pcworld....

spend £249 on an advent vega, mod it to get the full android experience with marketplace and then sit on the sofa and enjoy - i'm loving mine and using my mac and ipod touch much less.

the ipad is great to use but, as others have said, it lacks more than just flash and a decent price point...

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Tablet Tie-In

I noticed a scanner/printer in Currys (I think) the other day that seemed to have a detachable tablet as its interface.

Incidentally it seems a bit early to say that MS will be a minority player in the tablet market, you might have said the same when netbooks first came out and all came with Linux, MS didn't remain the minority for very long.

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Thumb Up

Yeah but MS can't buy their way into this one.

Slightly different with tablets.

MS bribed their way into the netbook market by people not understanding linux and by changing their OS to suit the netbook. Basically shipping such a watered down version of Windows 7 / Vista that it was windows XP (Though they don't do XP) and putting out starter edition or whatever it was called. Even though the whole point of a netbook was SSD and for Windows you needed a proper HDD because of space and bloat etc. The cost saved by putting in a HDD was taken up with windows tax and now it is all Windows crudware on netbooks and none have SSD's. They owned the market by peopls ignorrance with Linux and massive bribery. (there was some issues of OEM licences with manufacturers if memory serves)

With a tablet you have to consider the UI, and MS don't do touch screens very well. Remains to be seen if their offering is any good but windows 7 on a tablet still requires an anti virus, still requires boot times and without the dual core and 3 GB of RAM you are not going to have a fast beast. Massive draws on both battery and HDD space because it is bloated with things like page files and 18000 programs in a windows directory that don't do anything that we know of. Last anti virus I looked at now runs 8 processes in the background, chewing up resources.

You don't want any of that in a tablet, running virus scans, consuming massive amounts of HDD with pointless programs. So tablet markets will be app based, not program based, they will be light and quiet not whirring with activity because anti virus's need to run. Not sure MS can do that.

And who wants to pay the Microsoft tax anymore with Android about?

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Silver badge

Netbooks were a lesson

Giving away the OS for free only gets you so far, especially if manufacturers find themselves having to extensively modify & support it on their devices. Linux dists for netbooks were pretty horrible, poorly maintained and users quite understandably wanted to be running Windows anyway. I had an Eee 701 PC and the Linux on it was execrable. The Vista debacle was the perfect moment for Linux to make inroads and it screwed up.

I doubt most manufacturers put up resistance to Microsoft's "bribe" for Windows 7 when it addressed their concerns, made customers happy and ran so well.

It is easy to see the same happening on tablets and it explains why MS is porting Windows to ARM. While Android is vastly more better and vibrant than the average netbook Linux, it's still not perfect. Manufacturers still have to modify and maintain it too much, and I doubt Google compensates them from the money it makes through advertising revenues or apps.

People may perceive the benefit of a tablet which can fall back to a Windows desktop. Manufacturers certainly would if MS cuts them in for a slice of the revenues from advertising and / or apps. Perhaps the tablet features a shell (much like media center) where users spend most of their lives and which has a touch centric experience with downloadable apps etc. The user could live in that shell, but still be able to drop out into Windows desktop, e.g. from a button or by plugging the tablet into a dock. Then the tablet transforms for all intents and purposes from a touch screen into a PC which is pretty awesome.

The enormous fly in the ointment is how an Windows seamlessly supports both modes, how it supports x86 apps and what performance is like. It's no damned good being able to drop to a desktop if no apps exist to run on it, or run so badly as to not bother.

If MS do pull it off then Google & Android should be worried. They might find themselves in the same boat as netbooks & Linux before them.

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Trouble is...

Microsoft does not make the custom driver software for hardware... the manufacturers do. Nvidia makes the nvidia drivers, AMD/ATI the drivers for their stuff, and Intel does their thing. Microsoft only makes the basic OS, everything else is tweaked by the manufacturers.

Regarding the tablet manfacturers;

What floors me is that the hardware manufacturers still don't "get it". A tablet must support wifi but does not have to support 3g, and or 4g. A PCMCIA slot could be used to add cell phone (and therefore 3g/4g) functionality to the device. Sell the expansion card through the cell phone providers... this frees the tablet to be sold through more channels at a lower price-point.

All tablets must have

* A responsive capacitive touch screen,

* Forward and rearward facing cameras

* 1GB+ RAM

* Capable of using 16-32GB SD cards.

* Blue tooth

* User-replaceable battery

* USB Support

* WiFi g/n

* A pop-out stand to hold it upright on your desk or night table (they make a dandy alarm clock)

Optional nifties you should be able to add-on

* HDMI out (can be on an upper level model)

* GPS receiver

* Accelerometers

* Magnetometer

The price should be around $250-$350, the cost of the PCMCIA cell phone expansion would depend on the service provider you choose, what contract (if any) you want, etc etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Good article

What's happened to the HP/Palm OS tablet? That's the other potential minority play. I had a Palm Pre for a couple of months and it was a very usable OS (let down by cheap feeling hardware with a poor battery life).

The lists of 'missing features' or 'old technology' always miss the point. Sure some of us geeks care about it but the mass market doesn't - it's the overall user experience that matters and that's what Apple are still getting 'righter'. The iPhone camera is still low spec but it takes great pictures.

eg:

* Full multimedia support for codecs and containers - full H264, VC1, MP4 ASP, MKV etc. (who cares? If you're playing legit content via iTunes you're fine. Flash remains a (big) temporary issue but when the BBC sort out iPlayer most people will be happy enough in the UK

* Outputs such as HDMI, USB (Apple docks provide this)

* Memory expansion slots (majority of users never expand memory on their device)

* Other peripherals not found in an iPad, e.g. slide out keyboard (increases the size - BT keyboards available)

* Removable battery (lack of this gives a stronger, more solid feeling device. How many owners ACTUALLY own a second battery for their phones? I bought second batteries for a couple of my cellphones over the years but never actually used them. A Phillips Power to Go now does for the once or twice a year I know I'm going to be away from a charge port for too long and works for more than one device)

* Different form factors (there will almost certainly be a 'right' size for tablets and it's looking like 10")

* Different price points (Apple is still looking best value)

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Silver badge

Ridiculous

Your apologetics are as ridiculous as someone claiming that since a Mini is quite a nice car that nobody should have any reason whatsoever to want a car with features or functions that a Mini lacks.

In response to your frankly silly excuses:

* Media support. Many people have media in a variety of formats and want to be able to watch it without caring too much what format it's in. Just because YOU always buy your movies from the Apple store doesn't mean others have. e.g. some people might have purchased DIVX / Amazon movies or ripped their own or transferred movies from a PVR or downloaded them. Regardless, a device which has better media support and an open media framework to support new formats or services is better than one which doesn't for many people.

* HDMI, USB support. What? The $29 Apple dock supports VGA output and USB purely for charging and syncing with a PC. The VGA output also requires another adapter costing another $29. And of course cables for splitting the audio. All of which gets you precisely nowhere close to the quality or convenience of playing movies through HDMI if a device just had a built in port.

* Memory expansion. Pure bollocks. There are many reasons someone might wish to plug in an SD card, such as transferring pictures, music or other files around. e.g. I might wish to use a tablet to edit a photo on an SD card from my camera before plugging the SD into a photo processing machine. Perhaps you should suggest we should all buy a $29 camera kit to work around this artificial restriction?

* Keyboard or other built-in peripherals. Again you appear to think that just because you want to haul around a separate $69 keyboard (mutually incompatible with the $29 dock, and $29 camera kit which need the same port) that everyone does. Some people may prefer a keyboard which folds neatly and flat with the tablet.

* Removable battery. Your rationalizations are getting ludicrous. Virtually every non-Apple phone in existence manages to feature a removable battery. My HTC desire manages it by the mind crushing concept of pop clips in the back cover. Others do it through sliding backs. Some backs are made of plastic, others steel or whatever. Some people appreciate being able to replace one battery for another without invalidating their warranty or spending a small fortune sending their phone / tablet off and receiving a mystery replacement with none of their files or settings a week later.

* Form factors. So says you, other people can and do have different requirements. Some might appreciate a tablet with a different aspect ratio for multimedia playback, or a smaller size for traveling, or a few more hard buttons, or a rubberized back for easy grip, or a smaller bezel, or a built in stand, or a folding cover or the multitude of different features a tablet might offer. Claiming the iPad is perfect for everyone is absurd. People have different tastes and requirements.

* Different price points. Again, some people might question why they have to fork out $600+ for a device and then a small fortune for a carrier bag full of docks, cables and other accessories when one selling for half the price meets their requirements. And it's quite clear that there will be tablets selling for half the price. Some devices like the Archos 101 already do and as CES demonstrates there are going to be many, many tablets to suit all tastes and budgets in the next year.

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Big Brother

What iPad has that the others don't

Lots are said about what the iPad lacks compared to the super hardware that others can put out, but little about possibly its most USP's compared to its competition, and it mostly has little to do with technology.

1. You can but an iPad right now, today. We see loads of iPad killers, but until one of the guys at work, a friend or a shop has one of these killers it remains very vaporous.

2. iPad 2 will be here before everything shown at CES. I would love to be proved wrong on this.

3. Apple Customer Service and Retail presence. You can play with an iPad all you like, with and around people that know how to use it, as opposed to some youth in PC World who does not know his 3G from his Micro SD.

4. The iPad is in danger of being the 'Hoover' of vacuum cleaners. Like the iPod if the Hoover of MP3 players and iPhones are the Hoovers of Smartphones. This sets a precedent in the minds of everyday (non tech blog readers) buyers.

5. 3rd Party Accessories. Cases, dongles, docks, Airplay Speakers, skins, training books, magazines and more.

All the above gives Apple a massive head start that I'm not so sure others will catch up with. Just two things might help the competition, Price and Availability. Get competitive with both price and availability and you might stand a chance.

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Am I the only one

who read the headline as, "let the bottle of the tablets commence"

?

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Anonymous Coward

Removable batteries

"Virtually every non-Apple phone in existence manages to feature a removable battery. My HTC desire manages it by the mind crushing concept of pop clips in the back cover."

Sure they do. And I can count the number of people I've met who have ever bought a replacement battery for one of their phones on the fingers of one hand. A lot of people criticise the non user replaceable battery on the iDevices but the reality is that batteries last as long as the phone for nearly everyone after 18-24 months they get a new phone.

Battery connnections and battery covers are a weak point - check out the number of replacement N95 battery covers for sale (mine was always falling off). The fault on my 6310i, otherwise still the best phone i've ever owned, was the connection to the battery which would mean i found the phone off in my pocket.

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Unhappy

Whatever happened ...

... to HTC?

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