2010 was the year of the iPad, 2011 will be the year of the tablet!

Apple currently dominates the tablet market, period. After the launch of the iPad in Spring 2010, Apple managed to shift around 15m units of the iPad world wide before the end of 2010 and not only leads sale with 90% of the market but is looking to increase sales massively with the launch of the thinner and faster iPad 2.

But whilst Apple currently has the tablet market pretty much to itself there are other devices launching now or in the not so distant future which have the potential to bite in to Apple’s market share along with also helping to grow the tablet market.

Samsung launched the Galaxy Tab in Q4 of 2010 and it took 17% of world wide tablet sales in that quarter which is impressive enough in its own right considering the device is really nothing more than a large screen Android mobile phone (the same could also be argued that the iPad is nothing more than an iPhone with a large screen too).

Where things start getting interesting in the tablet market is the launch of products such as the Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 and the LG 3D G-Slate, all of which run the brand new Google Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system. This new version of Google’s Android OS has specifically been created for tablet hardware and is a significant improvement over the more mobile phone orientated Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS.

We also have tablets from HP with their webOS based TouchPad (and webOS based Pre mobile phones to compliment the TouchPad) and BlackBerry with their Blackberry PlayBook tablet all set for launch between Q2 and Q3 of 2011.

The big question has to be though with all of these new tablets launching in 2011, how much effect will they have on Apple’s dominance in this particular market sector. Whilst 10% of the projected 50m tablet sales for 2011 is still an impressive number will any of these other tablets. But as technologically advanced as they are will they be in a position to eat in to Apple’s market share? Whilst not all price points have been set yet for the new tablets entering the market, tablets such as the Motorola Xoom have been set at a very similar price level to the competing Apple iPad and companies will find it difficult to out “AppleApple at same price point.

Apple is in the process of making the iPad the next stage of computing and the de-facto standard for both look and feel and how consumers want their software to look and work. But Apple has plans go further than this, not only do they want to own the market they want to define the idea of the market. We only have to look back to how their previous efforts with the iPod and the iPhone have turned out to get  some kind of idea of how this one may play.

So if not the Archos 10.1 or the Toshiba Folio 100, which internet tablet do you buy?

Ok so everybody is really excited about tablet computing at the moment, especially us here at Cleverboxes.comApple iPad

After many false starts over the years, Apple finally raised the bar with the launch of the iPad back at the start of 2010. Selling over 3m units in the first 80 days of being available, the iPad really was another massively successful launch for Apple and the iPad really defined what customers expected from a tablet computer. The iPad isn’t without its faults though, there is no Flash support for instance limiting the availability of “the entire web in your hand” with Apple citing security and battery performance issues as the main protagonists. There is no way of expanding the memory of the unit from the standard 16Gb, 32Gb or 64Gb that comes with the unit when you purchase. Also there is no video output to connect to a larger screen and no direct USB support. What the iPad does well is the user experience. Switch the unit on and everything is “Apple” slick and stylish. And as Apples advertising says, “It the computer you already know how to use!” due to the OS being pretty much the same as the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Due to the massive success of the Apple iPad of course many other companies have since jumped on the tablet bandwagon. Samsung announced in Spring 2010 that they would launch the Galaxy Tab by the end of 2010 which would be a 7″ Andorid 2.2 based device. Archos and Toshiba both announced 10.1″ Android based tablets at IFA, Germany in September 2010. HP have also recently launched their Slate 500 8.9″ product in the US and Blackberry have announced their PlayBook 7″ tablet will ship Q1 2011. Microsoft have also spoken about a tablet optimised version of their Windows 7 OS being released early 2011 so expect a glut of Windows based tablets to be announced at CES 2011.

Archos 10.1 Internet TabletAround the beginning of November both Archos and Toshiba shipped their Android based tablets. Cleverboxes.com shipped the first UK units of the Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet and PC World/Currys had a UK exclusive on the Toshiba Folio 100. Whilst both units sold well initially, Cleverboxes.com even sold out their initial allocation of Archos 10.1″ Internet Tablets and had a healthy back order list from customers both units had serious problems which led to most of the units being returned for refunds.

The Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet suffered from not shipping with the Android 2.2 operating system even though Archos advertised the unit did ship with this version. Android 2.1 is far more limited when compared to Android 2.2 especially as there is no Flash support built in to the operating system. The shipped operating system version on the Archos 10.2 Internet Tablet wasn’t really a surprise though as it was widely reported on the forums that this was going to be the case. Another worry for Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet owners was the fact that the unit only ships with 256Mb of main system RAM and Andorid 2.2 really requires 512Mb to run smoothly. There have been also quality control issues with the Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet such as screen issues, the metal arm on the back of the unit being loose and the unit saying “Archos 10.1 Internet Table” on the front of it – we hadn’t received any PR from Archos informing us of their move in to Ikea’s territory! The Toshiba Folio 100 from PC World/Currys hasn’t fared much better either. Based on similar hardware (the Toshiba Folio 100 does use a Tegra chipset and has 512Mb of RAM though which gives the unit a lot more potential to run the Android 2.2 OS much better) to the Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet, this unit does ship with the Android 2.2 OS BUT doesn’t support Flash playback out of the box – this update is rumoured to be coming mid-November from Toshiba but as this article is being written it hasn’t been released. Because of the Flash issue and build quality issues (not usually associated with Toshiba products) PC World/Dixons decided to withdraw the product from sale until the issues have been sorted. To be fair to both products, the main reason for people returning the units seems to have been down to the Android 2.1 OS shipping on the Archos 10.1″ Internet Tablet instead of the expect 2.2 version and no Flash compatibility on the Toshiba Folio 100 – both issues will be fixed with software updates and respective manufacturers have promised to make the updates available as soon and as quickly as possible.Toshiba Folio 100

So if you want a tablet PC before Christmas what do you purchase? Well if you like the slick but “wall gardened” experience of the Apple iPad then you can’t go far wrong. There is literally hundreds of thousands of apps available for the unit as well as books, music, video and games – just remember there are limitations but we think these are outweighed by the overall quality of the product, the OS and the user experience.

Samsung Galaxy TabThe Samsung Galaxy Tab is also shipping now and is widely available. This great unit runs Android 2.2 and supports Flash out of the box. But with only a 7″ screen the unit feels like an oversized phone (so much so you can put your SIM card in it for 3G data and voice). It is a quality product however and isn’t limited like other Android based products by having limited accessibility to the Android App Store.

Viewsonic are shipping their 10.1″ ViewPad tablet which has both Android 1.6 and Windows 7 installed on it (the reason for this unit shipping with Android 1.6 is that the Viewsonic Viewpad uses an Intel x86 CPU and Google don’t support this CPU in versions of Android above 1.6 i.e 2.1 and 2.2 – this will however be rectified when Google ship Andorid 3.0 and above sometime in 2011). Windows 7 has support for touch screen built in but we think that it will really only come into its own as a tablet OS when they release their tablet optimised version of the OS early 2011.Viewsonic Viewpad 10

Cleverboxes.com will be retailing the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab and Viewsonic Viewpad shortly and we hope to resume sales of the Archos 10.1 Internet Tablet once the OS has been upgraded and the Flash support enabled.

Whichever way you look at tablet computing, 2011 is going to be the year of the tablet and a very exciting time for this technology and cloud computing.