Ever since Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPad to the world in early 2010, Apple’s rivals have been scrambling to find a way to challenge the tech giant in a brand new category – tablets.
The rewards are potentially huge – more than 2.5 million Australians are estimated to have used the iPad within just three months of its launch Down Under.
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Many of those early adopters were businesses seeking an edge in both productivity and differentiation from competitors.
The iPad, and its successor the iPad2, has proved a hit for start-ups keen to use it for reading, conferencing, presentations and data access.
But is 2012 the year the rest of the pack finally catch up? The market is eagerly awaiting a Google-branded tablet this year, with the company’s CEO Eric Schmidt saying that a device of “of the highest quality” will be rolled out in the first half of the year.
It remains to be seen whether Google’s effort will turnaround the rather lacklustre performance of its Android platform in the tablet market, or even if it will directly take on the iPad or go after the cheaper end of the spectrum, which recently saw the launch of the Indian-made Aakash, priced at just $45.
Foad Fadaghi, research director at Telsyte, says that Apple’s rivals still have a lot of work to do to win over Aussie entrepreneurs.
“There are serious contenders out there, but it’s yet to be seen whether any single one will take off and take more than 5% of the Android market,” he tells StartupSmart.
“There are security concerns over the Android platform and some find it difficult to trust. We expect the iPad to have around a 70% market share this year.”
“It’s a formidable challenge to compete, but there are opportunities. The biggest challenge is the quality of the apps, as well as their pricing – it’s hard to compete when they are the same price as the iPad.”
A recent market analysis by Gartner points out: “Apple is at the heart of the media tablet discussion.”
“The fact that its products are already in demand by end users, that it offers a curated application experience that mitigates business risk, and that its approach is shared with other iOS devices, especially the iPhone, makes it a good and safe choice for businesses.”
“Although we have seen vendors such as Samsung and Lenovo focus on enterprises by working with security experts such as Cisco and Sybase or leveraging their brand share in this space, there has been little interest so far in Android-based tablets for business.”
Fadaghi says that start-ups looking beyond the iPad should search for the “ice cream sandwich” operating system – the Android 4.0 platform developed by Google and Samsung – as well as features useful for operating a small business on the run.
“Battery life is a big consideration, as well as having a good browser,” he advises. “Another key factor is whether to use 3G or WiFi only, which will depend on how much you are in transit during the working day.”
“Overall, a tablet is a great way of sharing information with clients or suppliers, especially in close proximity settings.”
So if you are mulling over a tablet purchase, which models should you be considering before you instinctively reach for the iPad? Here are the top five non-Apple tablets that may prove a hit with start-ups in 2012.
1. Amazon Kindle Fire
Price: $199 (in the US)
The biggest competitor to the iPad in Australia could be, ironically, a device that wouldn’t automatically be seen by some consumers as a direct threat.
While most people still associate Kindles (of any kind) with books, the Kindle Fire will offer some interesting features that will grab the attention of start-ups.
Pros: The obvious one is the cost. Aside from that, it includes Amazon’s entire digital music, video, magazine, and book services in one easy-to-use package.
Cons: In return for a lower price point, entrepreneurs will miss out on some useful tools, such as a microphone, camera and decent storage space. Operating on the Android platform, a launch date has yet to be confirmed. In short, this device hasn’t been made with the business user top of mind.
2. Acer Iconia Tab A200
The latest addition to Acer’s Iconia Tab range has been tipped as the device that dents the iPad’s market share both in Australia and overseas.
Although it will initially be available only via Harvey Norman, it’s expected that the tablet’s below-average price point will spark interest among Aussie entrepreneurs.
Pros: Like the Kindle Fire, the price. But, unlike the Kindle, the lightweight A200 has some useful business-related features, such as a camera, eight hours of standby battery time and a good multimedia package.
Cons: No 3G connectivity. Doesn’t offer anything particularly new. A good all-rounder but not particularly business-centric.