Apple iPad may be the king of the tablet jungle at the moment but rivals are breathing down its neck.
iPad has enjoyed huge success since its launch in 2010, controlling nearly 95 percent of the tablet market. According to analytic firm comScore, the 9.7-inch device accounts for 97 percent of U.S. Internet tablet traffic and nearly 22 percent of all non-PC Internet traffic. In comparison, tablets running on Google's Android OS account for only 2 percent of U.S. Internet tablet traffic and 0.6 percent of non-PC traffic. The difference is massive and the numbers clearly show how the iPad has become the gold standard for tablet.
However, the dominance enjoyed by iPad may be short-lived as its rivals release a slew of devices with one aim - beat iPad.
Currently Samsung Galaxy Tab and RIM BlackBerry Playbook can be considered to be the biggest threat to the iPad even though, in case of a face-off between them, they won't be able to hold a candle to the iPad.
Motorola Xoom, Dell Streak, T-Mobile's G-Slate and Asus Eee Pad are some other tablets that took a crack at the iPad but failed.
So far, the iPad's position looks safe. But for how long?
Analysts believe that the iPad's strength lies in iOS and iTunes. Apple's proprietary mobile operating system iOS, despite its antipathy towards Adobe Flash and inability to perform multitask well, is the most popular tablet OS. And Apple has made sure that their reputation is maintained by pushing out regular OS updates that offer, if nothing else, a better user experience.
Another advantage Apple has over rivals is that the OS updates don’t need to be through the carriers and manufacturers, thereby avoiding critical update delays.
Apple's other strength lies in iTunes. With its vast catalog of apps, music, movies, television episodes, and e-books, iTunes makes sure that people keep coming back for more. Till date, no Apple rival has been able to emulate iTunes' success.
However, things may not remain that way for long with Apple rivals gearing up to launch a slew of tablets that look set to give the iPad a hard time.
Leading the pack is Hewlett-Packard's WebOS-based TouchPad. The TouchPad's design, like the iPad, is clean, simple and sleek.
Like the iPad, the TouchPad has a single home button and built-in around that button is HP Touchstone technology that enables wireless syncing between the TouchPad and other WebOS devices.
The TouchPad boasts of beefy specs like 9.7-inch XGA capacitive multitouch screen (1024x768 resolution display with vibrant 18-bit color), Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-CPU 1.2 GHz processor, virtual keyboard, front-facing 1.3-megapixel webcam for video chat, A-GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, digital compass, gyroscope, Beats Audio and Microsoft Exchange Email support.
And yes, most importantly, it handles multitasking well and supports Adobe Flash.
TouchPad comes in 32GB and 16GB models with the former given a price tag of $599.99. The device is scheduled to be released in the market around mid-July.
Also posing threat to the iPad will be Lenovo's IdeaPad K1 and ThinkPad, the latter geared to serve professionals. Little is known about the ThinkPad except that it will reportedly run on Android Honeycomb OS and boasts of 10.1-inch WXGA capacitive multitouch display (1280x800 resolution) with 16:10 IPS Panel (good for watching widescreen movies), NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, WiFi, 3G, front-facing and rear-facing cameras, a full-size USB 2.0 port, mini-HDMI out, a genuine SD card reader and up to 8 hours of purported battery life.
The ThinkPad will come in 16GB, 32GB and (omg!!) 64GB models and it is likely to be priced $499 upwards.
The IdeaPad and ThinkPad will reportedly hit the market around June/July.
The other and perhaps the most deadly contender is ASUS Eee Pad Transformer.
The device, which is selling ridiculously well in the U.K., has eyes on the U.S. market and could give the iPad 2 sleepless nights.
Transformer boasts of 10.1-inch capacitive LCD display (800x1280 resolution), NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core 1 GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB/32GB storage, Android Honeycomb OS, 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chat, Bluetooth, WiFi, mini HDMI port, USB, 3.5 headphone connector, accelerometer, gyroscope, digital compass, GPS and micro-SD card slot.
Other features include Asus Webstorage (unlimited for 1 year), Adobe Flash 10.2 support, Android Market and Google apps and services goodies. Connect it to the QWERTY keyboard base and you get an extra eight hours of battery.
In conclusion, TouchPad, ThinkPad and the Transformer all offer compelling options and look good enough to end the Apple hegemony.