11 Features Other Tablets Can Use to Flatten the iPad

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The iPad is obviously not the first slate tablet in existence, though some rabid fans and journalists seem to think otherwise. With its $499 starting price, huge app ecosystem, attractive looks, and fast processor, can anyone stop the iPad from dominating the tablet world like the iPod dominates the PMP market? You bet they can!

After we did our hands-on with the iPad this afternoon, we were impressed with the device’s blazing performance and beautiful touch interface, but we also noticed several ways it falls short. If other vendors seize the opportunity to include most if not all of these 11 features into their devices–while delivering a good touch UI–they’ll have a shot at stealing Apple’s thunder.

  1. Higher-Resolution Screens: The iPad’s 9.7-inch screen displays content at a mere 1024 x 768, 168 pixels more than the average 10-inch netbook, but not nearly enough. The Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid offers a full 1366 x 768 resolution, a step above 720p and enough to see more of your Web pages or photos.

  2. A Complete Desktop OS: While some tablet users prefer the scaled-back functionality of a phone OS like the iPhone OS or Google Android, many people want the security and familiarity of a mainstream OS that runs all their desktop apps. With low-power CPUs like the Intel Atom Z series or Nvidia’s Tegra platform  it’s more than possible to create a compelling Windows 7 tablet.
  3. Dual Screens: CES was buzzing about MSI’s dual screen tablet prototype and for good reason. Who doesn’t want a device where one screen can be used as a keyboard or where the whole system can fold in half and fit in a coat pocket?
  4. Full HD Output: There’s no HDMI port on the iPad and, according to Apple’s site, the best resolution it can output to an external screen is 576p (720 x 704).  One of the main use cases of any tablet is for entertainment, but if you buy movies for your tablet, you should be able to output them straight to your TV. Even better than HDMI would be a wireless display technology like Intel’s WiDi or the 1080p-caable WHDI.
  5. Camera(s). We were hoping the iPad would come with front-facing a webcam for video chats or a back-facing camera for taking pictures. Some even predicted it would have both. Alas, the iPad is camera-less. Tablets should have a webcam for chatting at least; a back-facing camera would be great for augmented reality apps as well as photos.
  6. A Robust Dock. Seeing that the iPad already has a dock and keyboard accessory caused many to breathe a sigh of relief, especially when looking at the promised functionality of iWork. Still, a dock that does more with a better eye toward portability would be even better. The lack of ports could be alleviated by a good dock with all the connections users have come to expect on notebooks (or, at least, netbooks). We like Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1 so much because the dock is essentially the other half of a notebook, allowing for the portability and ease of a slate and the convenience of a netbook in one package. Not all docks need to go to the same;level, they just need to offer a decent number of options.
  7. Multitasking. This is one area where all Android tablets have the iPad beat out of the gate. The ability to run multiple programs at once is a pretty basic requirement for a computer-like device, even a tablet. Tablets running the aforementioned Android plus those few that run windows (like the Archos 9) and any that run other flavors of Linux have multitasking built in. Even iPhone owners have long wished for this ability.
  8. Browser Flash Support. At least the iPad isn’t alone here – Android tablets face the same lack of support for Flash in the native browser. It’s not just about video content, either. The Web is chock full of Flash and tablets need to support it if they claim to put all the wonders of the Internet at our fingertips.
  9. USB Ports: Every device needs at least one USB port, though we like the one full-size and one mini combination we last saw on the Camangi WebStation. There’s a reason every computer comes with these now. Not only are they useful for connecting peripherals and accessories but also external drives and flash memory. Allowing a tablet to charge via USB, like a smart phone, is a huge plus.
  10. A Memory Card Reader: Though Apple may feel that the Camera Connection Kit is satisfactory, many would appreciate an integrated reader that doesn’t require us to carry several extra connectors just in case.
  11. Haptic Feedback: Most Android phones already support haptic feedback, which can make a virtual button feel like a physical one. The keyboard on the MSI dual screen tablet prototype even has adjustable levels of feedback that gave the keys a nice tactile feel. If you want users to type on screen, it helps to give them a more realistic typing experience.

The tablet race has just begun and, while Apple has made a compelling product, the press it has received may actually help some competitors by bringing more attention to the tablet category. If vendors listen to their customers, they may be able to create something even stronger.


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  1. dushyant Says:

    Ipad is doomed, no webcam, no usb or Sd card port,no multitasking.

    An android phone for the same price will do much more and then some.

  2. Fanfoot Says:

    I agree on the Flash and Intel Wireless HD support. I would love to use a device like this to watch Hulu. Course it would have to be in HD, at least 720p, which apparently the current iPad can’t output. Perhaps in a future version. SD card slot? Yup, would love one.

    I don’t agree on many other points though. Most people (non technies outnumber techies by a long shot) could care less about multi-tasking, and leaving it out does make the UI easier. Everything I’ve seen says the screen looks fabulous. Who cares about running a full desktop OS? I’d rather have a simple UI and the app store, and the fabulous battery life.

    Watch and see how much the HP slate weighs and what its battery life is in order to be able to run Windows 7. And consider how many of those Windows programs will work well on a touch-based tablet. You’ll need an Atom + Ion to handle full screen flash. Think of the weight or the battery life to achieve that. Now reconsider. You’ve got to hold this one handed for long periods of time remember…

    Sure I’d prefer an OLED 720p screen. But as long as it works like an iPhone–smooth and quick zooming in and out, scrolling seamlessly, the resolution isn’t as critical. 1920×1024 on a 9.7″ display? You’re smoking crack. Again though it would be nice if a future version could display this on an external display.

    Cameras? You want to use this as a camera? You’ve seen how big this is right?

    USB ports? What for–there’s a USB port buried in that dock connector already.

    Sorry, but I’m not sure there’s a lot of room for other tablets to flatten this thing. It establishes a price point that others CAN’T exceed. The Kindle DX looks stupid. Tablets that don’t have media deals will die a quick death. Sure there’s things you can do that would be improvements, but they’ll probably be like the Zune improvements–I’d love Wireless syncing, subscription music, etc etc. All nice improvements. And the Zune got lots of those things right. But it didn’t do all the other things–no app store, media support was less than Apple’s, etc. And so they got minimal market share.

    BTW, one of my primary interests for a device like this is to replace magazines. Including Laptop magazine. Within a year I want to be reading a digital version instead. And no I don’t mean on my laptop like that stupid PC Magazine digital edition. In full color, with full color ads supporting the magazine. Give it to me please!

  3. John Connor Says:

    You’re knocking the iPad for not delivering a 1080p resolution? That sounds a bit strange, IMO, as I can’t recall you criticizing other 10-inchers for not being Full HD.

    Also, why the wish for a full desktop OS? I think we can live without 1 minute boots on our handhelds :)

  4. ErikRK Says:

    This sounds like the same techie reception the iPod and the Wii got at their introduction:
    Other products have more of this or more of that ….
    Apple is not bringing out the product with the best specs, but one that does really well what regular people want it to do!
    People already have computers and phones and those devices are great for their purpose… The iPad is not trying to replace them – and it doesn’t need a full OS or multi-tasking to read books or watch a movie… and it doesn’t have to have perfect call capabilities or endless ports…
    I have traveled with various size net/notebooks and phones… but none of them was great to watch a movie or to read a book/magazine or to just pull up a web site to make a restaurant or movie reservation etc etc…
    Lots of people will buy and like this because it allows them to easily do the things they want to do… it’s better for books than kindle, better at movies than an iPhone, better at showing around photos than a digital picture frame and on and on…
    In two years, nobody is going to remember the HP Slate or the MSI tablet…

  5. Kr0nos Says:

    “. We’d love to see someone go the full monty and offer a tablet capable of displaying 1920 x 1080″ you mean on an external display right ?
    Otherwise it would be an outstanding waste of money. Because you would have to scale the fonts up a lot so you can read anything.

    2. Tegra and Windows 7 ??
    3. Dual Screens:
    Makes only sense (to me) with “no frame” or foldable displays
    4. Full HD Output
    yes it would be great, but the iPad will never get it. Why ? Because it’s from Apple !
    Only Macs get connectors, nothing else.
    Exept the apple TV, witch for gods sake should get the A4 CPU so it dont eat up all this power.
    But then of corse it loses it’s keyfeature to bake a steak.
    It the ipad could put out Video it would kill the AppleTV complitly
    5. Camera(s)
    1. its a gaming device a Camera would mess that up ! – http://twitter.com/Kr0nos_/status/8272790074
    2. its from apple ! this would be a crappy vga camera that can only record videos – who wants that ? Better no Camera than an ipod nano one
    6. A Robust Dock
    A dock ? Conectors ?? It’s Apple ! You have to thank you them that you could buy a keyboard.
    (normal Apple wireless keyboard wont work, or would they ?^^)
    7.Multitasking
    Hmm i think the concept of “Single Tasking” isnt that bad – but there is something missing.
    My idea : After a long press on the Home Button you get a “tab like preview” of you latest used ~5 Apps and can jump directly from one App to an other without seeing the homescreen.
    I think multitasking would kill the performance on iphone and ipad, i have no idea how me idea would work in real life. But my Android phone has a feature like that (i dont know if its a stock feature or a comes with the home replacement Home++), when i press the Home button longer i get a popup with 6 icons, on android its a little bit random what apps appear there, but i think this concept could be expanded. And then Apple could sell it to us as a feature invented by them, as the invented the mp3 player, the smartphone and the tablet.
    8.Browser Flash Support
    Its Apple !! Flash does really work on an a full Mac (according to my apple fanboy friend)
    9. USB Ports:
    Its Apple ! You have to buy an Addapter for it
    10. SD Card Slot
    Its Apple ! You have to buy an Addapter for it
    And not even the Macbooks have one (or did they became on with the last update?)
    11. Haptic Feedback
    ok i dont like it, and turned it off, but i know other people like it.

    To put it in a Nut shale :
    I agree with you, but most “features” lack because the ipad is from Apple.
    It is there philosophy !
    And sadly they get a long with it pretty good (look at the last quarter profit)

    But hey dont take it from me, take it from your messiah :
    “We do not know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not allow us to ship that.” “

  6. Doug Says:

    You guys don’t understand Apple’s business model very well. There’s a reason why the company is worth $50 billion. Design a beautiful, simplistic device and UI that will appeal to the average user (You know, the majority of the population, not power users.), limit the device to prevent cannibalism of current products while allowing for numerous future revisions and continued revenue stream (Revision B: camera, multiple carriers, enhanced keyboard dock, etc.), and sell at a premium price to reap huge profits.

    By the time Apple’s competitors catch up, they will be hyping their next revision or latest, greatest device. Combine this with their suite of online stores (iTunes, App, and now iBooks) and they will continue to be successful, despite the fact that their competitors’ products have more bells and whistles.

    If you look at any of Apple’s products they follow the same guideline to a tee. This is why MacBooks don’t have the features of a MacBook Pro until the MacBook Pro is up for revision. Japanese automakers use this same tactic when selling cars in the US. You can have a CD player in the base model, but if you buy the LX edition it has a USB port, and for a little more the high-end Sport model has a built-in navigation system. See how that works? They’re not going to give everything away for free. That would be stupid on their part.

  7. Mark Spoonauer Says:

    I removed the reference to 1080p support for the display, which is not realistic or even desirable. 1080p output, however, would be nice. or even 720p as mentioned in the 4th item.

  8. TinkerTenor Says:

    John, I take an issue with the following statement:

    “Also, why the wish for a full desktop OS? I think we can live without 1 minute boots on our handhelds.”

    1) iPhone already has a 1-minute boot time.
    2) with iWork running, I can think of a million reasons for multi-tasking
    3) I’m tired of Jobs and all his devotees referring to the iPad as a “handheld” device. It’s NOT!

    iPad is far too big to qualify as “handheld.” Jobs said something poetic during the launch about having the web “in the palm of your hand.” Well, in fact, that’s not where it is at all on the iPad – it’s in-between the palmS of your handS.

    That makes a huge difference, and it highlights my biggest problem with this product: it’s far too large to lack a real OS because at 10 inches it could be capable of so much more. But it’s also too small to justify costing as much as a full laptop, and for that reason it will always be a useless category of device to me. An overgrown toy with the technical potential to be a very sad, little computer with no USB ports.

  9. minu Says:

    I would love to have a iPad like device which does the following -

    a. eBook reader (So that I can download all my high school books).

    b. Stylus so that I do not have to buy and carry many notebooks seperetely.

    c. Decent web capability. (Can’t afford 3G per month cost and WiFi will do just fine).

    The iPad falls short on all these fronts. The amazon kindle does not do this either.

    The tablet pcs are too costly to do this.

    Hopefully someone will come up with a $500-$600 product which does all of the above.

  10. Nick Lee Says:

    I’ve been reading a lot of “industry” comments about the iPad and I’m a little bit taken aback by the hammering it seems to be getting from everyone. Am I the only person who has noticed that the thing is not actually available yet?! How come every columnist on every technology related web site seem to be saying the same thing, which is that iPad is not as good as it’s competitors?

    As far as I can tell, there are no competitors for it at the moment. But there will be after a while, just as the iPhone set all the other phone manufacturers on the path of touch-screens, the iPad will herald a new branch of PC computers which are basically iPad rip-offs. And they won’t get it right for the simple reason that the manufacturers will be missing the point.

    In the same way that hap-hazardly slapping an inadequate touch screen onto a phone doesn’t make it an “iPhone killer”, making a netbook in the shape of a piece of slate won’t make it an iPad killer either.

    Apart from anything else, all I am saying is let the thing come out, have a play with it, use it, and then by all means say that it’s no good, and that other things are better, if that’s what your opinion is, but don’t do it before you even had one in your hands for more than a couple of minutes!!!

  11. Kirby Jewell Says:

    Hey, I read all your posts, keep them coming.

  12. Cammy Doerksen Says:

    Where can iPad apps?

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