Folding Tablets

Sony Tablet P - Click for slide show

We have still to see any real Android challenge to the iPad. The simple fact is, they’re not as nice. Apple’s hermetic approach to design means that they can tweak the whole package until it’s really quite lovely. Almost every rival product so far feels like an inferior imitation.

It shouldn’t be this way. The advantage of the more open Android platform ought to be that, like Windows, it gets used on an interesting variety of hardware. That should allow creative manufacturers to experiment and innovate. Inexcusably though, most don’t. But just now and again someone lets loose, and the results justify the wait.

Sony simply call it the Tablet P, and though it looks like one of those concept devices that are demoed and then never seen again, it is actually coming to market – along with its more conventional sibling the Tablet S – any day now. I don’t even usually like Sony’s stuff; for my tastes it seems too shiny and insubstantial. But the idea of a folding tablet is just gorgeous.

Why? Well the iPad has been touted as somehow a replacement for print publications – even the potential saviour of the publishing industry. But it is not a device you can easily carry around with you to read in the places most people read casually: During journeys and commutes, sitting at a café table. Basically it’s too big; smartphones on the other hand are too small for comfortable reading. A device that has almost the same screen size as an iPad yet can be slipped into a jacket pocket or handbag makes sense in so many more situations.

Meanwhile, there are strong rumours that Amazon is about to enter the fray too, attempting to beat other tablets where so far there’s been a painful absence of competition – on price. So despite Apple’s courtroom tactics and the demise of HP’s Touchpad, it looks like competition is finally beginning to happen. The biggest upset though may be yet to come. So far, Microsoft has been noticeable in the consumer tablet market mostly by its absence. Are they having second thoughts? More soon…

Tablets In Court – Continued

As for your “Apple is killing the [tablet] marketplace”, as companies like Palm/HP and RIM are showing: there’s plenty of competition that’s doing fine without toe-ing the copying line.

~ Comment by reader Azijn

Not so much, it seems.

HP have thrown in the towel, after their tablet being on the market for an astonishingly brief three weeks. The world’s largest computer manufacturer doesn’t think it can make its money back on tablets. What chance does a relative minnow like RIM have?

Both HP’s WebOS and RIM’s QNX are – or were – really interesting and attractive operating systems, and it’s true that they’re arguably a lot less similar to Apple’s iOS than Android is. (Though it has been argued by some that they’re a little bit too similar to each other.) But it’s immaterial; only Android has the ecosystem of apps to compete with iOS. For the foreseeable future, there is no other realistic alternative to the iPad.

Samsung have clearly being sailing close to the legal wind – in part perhaps to establish just what can and can’t be copyrighted. It’s interesting legally because many of the laws being invoked by Apple were designed to prevent counterfeiting or passing-off of fake goods. Now clearly Samsung are not passing-off. Their products say ‘Samsung’ on the front in large letters. But they know that Apple have managed to create an aura of sexiness around their products. Is the iPhone the ideal size and shape? Is it the most beautiful design possible? It doesn’t matter; people now want something that looks like that. So to compete, it may be necessary to look as similar as you legally can. Perhaps Samsung will argue in court that consumer electronics is more like the fashion industry now.

But I would be happier to see companies attempting to innovate with Android instead. HTC have tried of course, but for sheer inventive madness I think you have to hand it to their neighbours Asus.