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    August 15, 2012

    In my opinion: Is the iPad invincible?

    Since its introduction in 2010, the Apple iPad has been the premium tablet on the market. Still comprising more than 68% of all tablets sold today, the iPad seems to be getting stronger and stronger. With so many other options on the market, why would the majority of people keep flocking towards the Jobs brainchild? Since Apple created the new segment in the market, it has been interesting to see how it has evolved and how other manufacturers have entered the market, some more successfully than others. What is interesting is that the idea of a tablet PC as we know it today has actually been around since the turn of the century, but it took Apple to popularize it.

    First Prototype

    The first tablet PC as we know them today actually came to the fore in 2000. Now, that is a long period of time until the iPad‘s launch in 2010. If you look at the first prototype below, you can probably see why.

    Yes, it was actually Microsoft that conceptualised the idea of a personalized computer as a small, mobile device that can do almost anything your huge, chunky desktop can. Not the prettiest piece of technology you have ever seen, right? That is certainly a factor, but also, the technology required to cram so much performance into such a miniscule package had not yet existed. Sure, the prototypes were fully operational, but the functionality needed to make the device really useful was not there yet.

    It begs the question: why did Microsoft lose faith in the idea? Could they have not waited until the technology existed (or created it themselves) and try again? Surely they missed a massive opportunity. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn‘t it, Microsoft?

    So why is the iPad so dominant? Aren‘t the other tablets any good? Is it their marketing? Don‘t they have comparable capabilities? Is it just because the iPad is an Apple product? Is the general public not very well informed and so don‘t know any better? Well, to some extent it is all of these factors. Let‘s take a look at what people look for in tablet computers, and why it‘s mostly the iPad that seems to fit this criteria.

    Hardware

    While most of the tablet owners in the world don‘t know exactly what is going on inside the tablet and what lies beneath to give them good performance, the hardware is still an important factor. Although the terms “œA5 processor“, “œTegra 3“, “œExynos 5250 chip“, “œBSI camera“ and the like might not mean much for many people, they still know that most of the time bigger is better. So, for the lucky people who can afford a high-end tablet, they can always go for a proper performing tablet.

    Certainly, Apple holds its own in this regard. The screen is something special, and other manufacturers have taken notice. The Apple processors are on par with most on the market, but by no means the best. The next iPad will probably be substantially beefed up in this regard, as the new iPad was not much of an improvement over the iPad2. So what can competitors offer?

    • Microsoft: The Surface tablet will be interesting to watch. We are not yet sure of the hardware, but the illuminating keyboard in the cover is a brilliant idea.
    • ASUS: The Transformer Prime is the best Android tablet available in the country at present. It has stunning performance specs and a beautiful screen. The Nexus 7 is also an interesting prospect, having great specs for a low price and stock Android. Whether it will be coming to SA remains to be seen.
    •  Samsung: The hardware in their tablets has always been decent, but we are excited to see the upcoming P10 tablet. It uses the brand new Exynos 5250 1.7 GHz chip, said to perform about 1.5 ““ 2 times better than the Tegra 3 and quad-core Snapdragon processors, and has 2GB of RAM. Most impressively, it has a 2560 x 1600 resolution screen, easily beating the retina display of the iPad (2048 x 1536).

    User Experience

    The way the operating system of a tablet performs is arguably even more important than its hardware specs. This is the iPad‘s true strength, as it is almost always seamlessly smooth and fluid, no matter what you are doing with it. There are those that believe the operating system is too rigid and doesn‘t allow for much personalization, but for most people that is not an issue.

    That all comes down to taste of course, but in terms of smooth performance, it‘s my honest opinion that nothing is as good today (even though I love my Galaxy Tab) as an Apple iPad. That is likely to change pretty soon, though. The newest ASUS tablets are running Ice Cream Sandwich, which is a big improvement on the previous versions of Android. And so, there should be some competition for the iPad in the near future.

    •  Android: Google has recently released the latest version of their open source operating system, 4.1 Jelly Bean. To be quite frank, it‘s a major upgrade for the operating system, and makes the experience on both smartphones and tablets immensely improved. We look forward to seeing new tablets released with Jelly Bean (like the P10 previously mentioned).
    • Microsoft: Windows 8 is set to be a huge enhancement. Already, demos of the operating system on tablets is creating quite a buzz, but we won‘t be completely convinced until we get our hands on it.
    • Blackberry (wait, Blackberry make tablets, who knew?): The Playbook is far from being a valid competitor.

    Brand Names and Fashion

    Whether you like it or not, it will always play a huge part in retail. Trends will always be present, and certainly Apple is a huge trendsetter. To the general public, Apple is “˜cool‘ and only make good products. Luckily, people are becoming more “˜techno-literate‘ and have a better understanding of products, how they work, and what makes them good or bad.

    Until recently (and probably still in some cases), if you asked someone in the general public why their Apple device is better than anything else, you would probably get a reply along the lines of: “œBecause it‘s Apple, they‘re just better.“ That‘s what trends tend to do. Of course, it needs to be a good quality product to acquire that status in the first place.

    The only manufacturer that has been able to replicate this kind of trend in their devices in recent times has been Samsung, with the Galaxy S smartphones. The SII did brilliantly and now the SIII is truly a trendy item to own and show off. In the tablet market though, no one has been able to get the same status attached to their devices. It also has to do with design of course, as it needs to be a pretty device. The iPad does fit that description, as most of the public agrees.

    Invincible?

    Is the iPad invincible? In the short-term, it‘s most likely. One of two things is going to happen before that changes. Someone is going to have to make a vastly superior product (some would argue there already are), or the tablet also has to become a fashion statement like the iPad. The market is being flooded with so many devices these days, it will take something special for someone to really stand out from the crowd. Whether you are an Apple die-hard or not, the sales figures are truly impressive, as is the device.

    We as consumers should be happy that there are so many devices out there, because competition breeds innovation and improved technology. Whether its innovation, fashion or lack of competition which keeps Apple at the helm, or whether someone will truly challenge them soon, remains to be seen. I for one can‘t wait to see how things develop and what is presented to the consumer in the coming months and years.

    What would you like your tablet to do in the future? Let us know in the comments below.

    Follow Theunis on Twitter at @TvR_Pion.

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