ViewSonic, Toshiba, Archos Set Sights on Apple iPad

A few weeks ago, I rounded up scads of current and upcoming tablets–ones from big companies, ones from little companies, ones that look a lot like the iPad, and ones with personalities all their own. It wasn’t the least bit shocking that my list was incomplete when I published it, or that it grows more out-of-date every day.

Gizmodo’s Gary Cutlack has a new post up about five tablets that weren’t among the thirty-two I wrote about. One’s the iPad itself (hey, it’s a tablet and it seems to have potential!). Another is the reasonably interesting Samsung Galaxy Tab, which I saw last week at IFA.

And here are the other three:

ViewSonic ViewPad100: This 10? model dual-boots between Android and Windows 7. The version of Android is the woefully out-of-date 1.6. But the big issue is the very idea of a tablet that runs two different operating systems. I can’t see any way that’s a plus rather than a clunky complication–I mean, with tablets it’s a bad sign if you have to give any thought whatsoever to the process of booting.

(Asus, Samsung, and Toshiba aren’t making dual-booting tablets, but they’re all hedging their bets by readying separate Android and Windows 7 models. That strategy worries me, too: It’s going to be hard enough to build one compelling tablet, let alone two on totally different platforms.)

Toshiba Folio 100: Toshiba’s 10.1? Android tablet (shown above) sounds respectable from a specs standpoint and packs Android 2.2, but Engadget’s Paul Miller tried it at IFA and was unimpressed on multiple fronts–he says it feels cheap, has a substandard LCD, doesn’t offer the Android Market, and sports a mediocre interface.

Archos 7o: Give Archos credit for having built tablets and tabletesque devices for years–it’s not jumping on any bandwagon, and it’s not building iPad wannabees. But I suspect that Cutlack is right when he says that this new Android model, with a 7? screen and a hard drive, is better thought of as a media player than a well-rounded tablet.

I’m still waiting for the first tablet that rational observers think could be an iPhone killer, or at least formidable competition for Apple–the Droid of the tablet category, if you will. The ViewTab, Folio, and 7o aren’t it. Neither is the Galaxy Tab, although it could be a popular product in its own right. The hardware part of competing with the iPad isn’t that thorny a problem; the software side is a gigantic challenge. (Tablets need interfaces designed with tablets in mind, not stretched-out smartphone interfaces or ones repurposed from the keyboard-and-mouse era.)

I suspect that it may be mid-2011 before truly polished iPad rivals show up–by which time Apple will presumably be ready to announce its second-generation tablet. Here’s hoping I’m being overly pessimistic…

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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