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You've seen the flood of rival tablets raging toward the reigning champ, the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad. Maybe it scares you as an Apple investor; perhaps it excites you as a consumer or an investor in the competing brands. Either way, take a short-term chill pill. The iPad's position on the throne is secure throughout 2010.
After that, all bets are off.
Leaks and announcements this week from Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) , Samsung, and other consumer-centric device designers reinforce that timeline. The Motorola Stingray tablet, for example, looks like a potential iPad killer on paper. It comes with features sorely missing from the iPad, including front and back cameras for videoconferencing and possibly a dual-core NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) Tegra 2 processor. Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) Wireless already has entries for it in the inventory management system, indicating an imminent release. Sweet!
Well, hold your horses. That very timeliness points to an underwhelming experience. Android version 2.2, aka Froyo, is an amazing platform for smartphones, but has not been optimized for the larger-screen tablet experience. Many applications may not work at all on pixel canvases of unsupported sizes, and others will have their carefully crafted screen layouts jumbled and borderline unusable. If the Stingray is ready for release before Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) lets loose the purportedly more tablet-friendly Android 3.0, aka Gingerbread, it could launch without an app market at all. Apple has no reason to fear a device like that.
The first truly mass-market Android tablet is the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab, but the screen on that thing just barely qualifies as a tablet at 7 inches across. The Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) Streak has only a 5-inch screen, which again makes it more of a large phone than a small tablet. The 10-inch Samsung Tab is due next year, when Android 3.0 will have been available for several months. See a pattern here? Unless Apple changes up its predictable pattern of releasing product updates on a yearly schedule (iPhone in early summer, iPods late summer, and iPads probably by April or so), Android tablets should get a nice window of opportunity to steal Apple's thunder in early 2011.
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