DO YOU RE­ALLY NEED THE iPAD OR WILL ANY OTHER TABLET DO?

TABLETS COULD WELL HAVE A COL­LEC­TIVE NOUN OF THEIR OWN—A “CON­FU­SION”. HERE IS THE STARK RE­AL­ITY: THE iPAD IS KING. BUT WHY?

Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - COVER STORY - BY ASHISH BHA­TIA

Circa 2011, ev­ery­one and their grand­moth­ers want a tablet. A mo­bile de­vice that is much big­ger than a smart­phone, but smaller than a lap­top, tablets are fast gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity as a sec­ondary de­vice of choice for any­one look­ing for the power of a lap­top—sans its com­plex­ity. Most peo­ple jump at the idea of a tablet be­cause its size makes it so much more con­ve­nient to carry around, sim­ple to use while serv­ing mul­ti­ple pur­poses. Along with the porta­bil­ity and sim­plic­ity what ap­peals to even the non-tech crowd is the in­tu­itive­ness of a tablet’s nat­u­ral user in­ter­face—touch.

While there is a sur­feit of op­tions in the mar­ket, the tablet world is pre­dom­i­nantly di­vided be­tween the Ap­ple ipad and Android hemi­spheres. Ap­ple, the com­pany solely re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing the tablet a near­house­hold word to­day, con­tin­ues to lead from the front—in both in­no­va­tion and pop­u­lar­ity.

The Android OS, on the other hand, has many torch­bear­ers and spans across the ma­jor­ity of tablets to­day. (The only ex­cep­tions be­ing the Black­berry Play­book from RIM and a smat­ter­ing of Win­dows of­fer­ings). The wide spread of the Android op­er­at­ing sys­tem across varied man­u­fac­tur­ers—along with its com­mon pool of

apps—serve as Great Equalis­ers in the non-ios world. This makes choos­ing an Android tablet all the more dif­fi­cult. So it boils down to look­ing for sub­tle, oblique dif­fer­en­tia­tors, per­sonal pref­er­ences and peer ref­er­ences. By and large, the whole af­fairs has be­come a mat­ter of the ipad vs the Rest.

HEY HONEY, WHERE ARE THE APPS?

Hear ye, hear ye, all and sundry, harken to our tale of woe… While there have been con­spic­u­ous strides— nay, al­most a swag­ger—in Android’s strides in the past year, it is still far from reach­ing the promised land. We’ve been trawl­ing and tun­nelling the Android Mar­ket, but we’re hard put to find sparkling apps. It’s been six months since the birth of Hon­ey­comb, the much bal­ly­hooed tablet-spe­cific ver­sion of Android, yet the apps on it are few and far be­tween. It’s thum­be­liev­able! With the might of al­most all global giants be­hind it, shouldn’t the trickle have long be­come a flood? And then where’s the magic? We need some high ni­trate fire­works here, guys! The few score and ten that have man­aged to emerge are mere me-toos of apps that have been around on the Ap­ple IOS for months. There is noth­ing ar­rest­ing, eye­catch­ing or some­thing that will make you go WOW! Not yet, at least. For­get that, the Android de­vel­oper com­mu­nity is yet to con­jure up even some­thing as ar­rest­ing as Flip­board—an app that have been on the ipad for over a year now.

Rue­fully, in­stead of at­tempt­ing to leapfrog the ipad world—as one would ex­pect from Google—app de­vel­op­ment on the Android tablet plat­form is still barely there. Un­til we can see some­thing creative, com­pelling and breath-tak­ing, Android will con­tinue to swim up­stream and play sec­ond fid­dle. As they say, great re­sults al­ways re­quire great am­bi­tions.

Dear Android, we wish you had more steak to go with your un­de­ni­able siz­zle. Just as one fat turkey doesn’t an ea­gle make—hard­ware mus­cle alone will not help Android tablet man­u­fac­tur­ers win this bat­tle.

To re­it­er­ate what has al­ready been said a zil­lion times be­fore: Ap­ple has proved—first with the iphone and then with the ipad—that it’s no longer about the chip with the fastest heart­beat, in­dus­trial-strength Tup­per­ware, or bells and whis­tles that can take you to the top of the heap. It’s the whole bloomin’ bun­dle. Or, to use the world’s most blood­ied and bat­tered buz­zterm: the en­tire ecosys­tem. And by now no one needs rad­i­cal in­tel­lect to fig­ure that out. Com­ing to­gether is a be­gin­ning, keep­ing to­gether is progress, work­ing to­gether is suc­cess.

The ad­vent of the Kin­dle Fire, the $200 Android tablet from Ama­zon—slated to ar­rive in mid-novem­ber 2011, even as you read this—prom­ises to shake and stir things up. No, it will not dim the daz­zle of the ipad sun, not in the short term cer­tainly. But it will cause mo­tion in the Android tab ocean for sure. You can ex­pect the Fire to set the price tags of quite a few com­peti­tors aflame. Af­ter all, who would want to pay more bucks for for their bang?

THE BOT­TOM LINE

Ba­si­cally, it comes down to what you want from your tablet. If it is a por­ta­ble com­put­ing gad­get to check mail, gawk at Face­book, watch a lot of movies by plug­ging in a USB source and play games, any of the top con­tenders in this round up will do. Just pick one that suits your pref­er­ences, pocket and panache.

You can do all of the afore­men­tioned on the ipad, and then some… If you’re look­ing for some­thing new ev­ery now and again, the ipad never dis­ap­points, serv­ing up a dol­lop of ex­cite­ment pe­ri­od­i­cally. That mon­ster bank of fas­ci­nat­ing apps just keeps grow­ing con­stantly. Be­sides, once you’ve pawed an ipad, you re­alise it of­fers the best user ex­pe­ri­ence among every­thing out there. It also re­mains the most in­tu­itive, com­pelling and wellthought-out tablet on the mar­ket to­day.

Much is made of a tablet’s abil­ity to make voice calls over the net­works. Yes, this is un­doubt­edly an ad­van­tage. How many times have you seen any­one—other than some­one try­ing to demo it, test it out or sim­ply show off—mak­ing a call over a tablet? And no, we are not re­fer­ring to VOIP (Voice over In­ter­net Pro­to­col) kind of Skyp­ing here.

Apart from the “psy­chic RAM” the Ap­ple de­vice con­sumes, the whole ipad pack­age has a lot go­ing for it at the mo­ment. As noth­ing suc­ceeds like suc­cess, the ipad boom is rid­ing the crest of a wave, right from apps to ac­ces­sories. Sat­u­ra­tion and su­per­fluity be damned, de­vel­op­ers, pub­lish­ers and ac­ces­sories man­u­fac­tur­ers are trip­ping over them­selves to push their wares into the ipad mar­ket—all to the ben­e­fit of con­sumers.

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