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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

As the Tablets Turn - the continuing saga



ipad_2_1-544x340.jpgThe continuing story of the tablet computer market is very much like a soap opera, with many twists and turns. The iPad is still the leading character and a growing list of understudies continues to wait for an opportunity to shine. The HP TouchPad, the BlackBerry PlayBook, the Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and others have joined the cast with hopes of stardom. A bunch of fallen dreams and lost promises later, it mostly has been cameo appearances or "exit stage right" for these newcomers. The iPad is still the marquis name.

OK, enough with the soap opera comparison but do you get my point? Earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) we saw tablet after tablet and iPad killer after iPad killer. That was January and it's now nearly October. The iPad is not dead and as we head into the holiday buying season Apple is poised to assert even more market dominance with the iPad 2 that is now almost eight months old. Take a look at some of the things that have occurred since CES.

  • Samsung's 7-inch Galaxy Tab is introduced but sales are not stunning. Subsequent price reductions and introduction of a WiFi-only version don't seem to help
  • Motorola's Xoom tablet is released and is the strongest challenge for the iPad yet, with promises of a future upgrade to 4G. The Honeycomb tablet is a hard sell with so few available Honeycomb apps and sales are lackluster
  • The much anticipated HP TouchPad hits the shelves and stays there, causing HP to pull the plug on WebOS hardware development and have a fire sale to dump the unwanted tablet. Ironically this elevates the popularity of the TouchPad to a point that rivals the iPad
  • Samsung tries again with the Galaxy Tab 10.1, a beautiful piece of hardware that rivals the iPad and has 4G speed on Verizon. Patent disputes with Apple seem to slow sales, however, as potential buyers wonder about the tablet's future.
  • BlackBerry follows HP in introducing their proprietary tablet, only to find no one wants it. Currently they have made aggressive price cuts but it doesn't look like anyone is buying.

w_image01.jpg  blackberry-playbook-wimax-scraped-cancelled.jpg  th21-630-hp-touchpad-reflection-630w.jpg

Samsung 10.1                        BlackBerry PlayBook                     HP TouchPad

But this story is not over folks, because tomorrow we expect the announcement of a new tablet from that is reported to be called the Kindle Fire. This tablet is rumored to be a 7-inch color Kindle and full Android tablet that will be available for $299 or less. Supposedly designed to compete with the Nook Color, some have been calling the Kindle Fire the latest "iPad killer." That was until this morning, when posted a story saying the Kindle Fire is basically a reworked BlackBerry PlayBook. So Amazon watches the PlayBook fail with BlackBerry's name on it and they figure if they slap on their name it's going to succeed? Geez.

Still to come, and it should be soon, is the release of the last production run of the HP TouchPad. After HP slashed prices on the 16GB and 32GB TouchPads to $99 and $149 respectively, a feeding frenzy ensued that sparked new interest in the tablet and webOS operating system. With demand high and supply quickly gone, HP decided to make another batch of the discontinued tablet. The release is reported to be 200,000 units and hundreds of thousands of people will be vying for a chance to snag one. I predict they will be sold out in less than an hour and are destined to be one of the most popular gifts this holiday season.

So if you're shopping for a tablet this holiday season the iPad is still the star of this show. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is waiting in the wings but needs a supporting cast of more and better Honeycomb apps to rise to stardom. And if you can get your hands on one of the last HP TouchPads for $100, you can expect a solid performance at a price that will make you feel like a star.

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 1:20pm]


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