It’s been fifteen months since the first iPad shipped. Nearly every sizable company that makes anything that looks even sort of like a computer or a phone has rushed into the market that Apple created. Many of these companies haven’t yet shipped the tablets they’ve announced. Still, a critical mass of major iPad alternatives are now here–tablets such as Motorola’s Xoom, RIM’s PlayBook, and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1.
And yet no Apple competitor has started selling anything that clearly answers a fundamental question: “Why should somebody buy this instead of an iPad?” Sure, it’s easy to point at specific things that other devices do better (or at least differently) than the iPad, and some of the people reading this article can explain why they chose another tablet and don’t regret the move. (If you’re one of them, please do!) Still, sales figures for tablets show that when consumers compare the iPad to other choices, an overwhelming percentage conclude that the iPad is the best option.
As a reviewer of gizmos, I think that the iPad 2 is easily the best tablet on the market–and that most of the competition so far is too half-baked to be credible. As a lover of competition, though, I’m itching to see other tablets arrive that deserve to do well, too. So that question–“Why would somebody buy this instead of an iPad?”–is stuck in my head. I’ve been trying to figure out how an Apple rival can come up with a tablet that pretty much answers that question for itself. And I’ve come up with thirteen ways it could happen.