It turns out Apple isn't the only company readying a touch-screen tablet computer.
We say that half-jokingly, of course. In the last few months, quite a few companies have signaled their intentions to go head-to-head (or at least offer an alternative) to Apple's much-ballyhooed iPad, which should hit stores in March. Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer, and Sony have or are in the process of readying gadgets they say will compete with the iPad. We've seen some demonstrations at the Consumer Electronics Show and other trade shows, but several gadget makers admitted to waiting to see what Apple was going to do before setting the specifications and price of their competing touch-screen tablets.
Now that they know, what are they going to do about it? That might sound a bit silly considering companies like HP, Dell, and Acer have larger market share than Apple--when it comes to computers. But in other, faster-growing areas--smartphones and music players--Apple's popularity far outstrips theirs. And in a new device category (it's reasonable to consider this a new category) they're all essentially starting from scratch.
So how will every company not named Apple try to compete for your touch-screen tablet computing dollar, assuming such a dollar exists? They will try to emphasize something about theirs being better, of course, be it in terms of price, style, speeds and feeds, or the movies, books, games, or TV shows available via their gadget. Dell, for example, providing evidence that an old dog can at least attempt new tricks, tends to emphasize style these days. HP's commercials try to sell you on how easily their product fit into your lifestyle.
More than anything, they should try to avoid selling it as a computer, in the classic laptop computer sense. If Dell and HP and Acer and their compatriots do that, they'll end up trying to convince people to spend money on basically yet another Netbook; something that's sort of like a PC, but not quite. It's just smaller, cheaper, and with less functionality than a traditional PC. And after sophisticated smartphones and cheaper Netbooks, do consumers really need yet another device that's not quite a laptop?… Read more