The iPad's Days Are Numbered

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.

Please take our Motley Poll, then scroll down the page to explain your vote in the comments section.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. 

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Google is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple and NVIDIA are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool disclosure policy thinks gingerbread makes for a steadier tablet than frozen yogurt -- at least it doesn't melt!


Read/Post Comments (15) | Recommend This Article (14)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2010, at 2:50 PM, tgauchat wrote:

    I have a < $200 Android 1.5 tablet with a Rockchip processor, 7".

    It's not half bad! Frankly, for under $150, I would say ... it's fine.

    In other words... 7" is a very useful size for many tablet applications (eBooks, portable video, light email and web), contrary to the author. But I think the market requires sub-$200 prices ... or lower.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2010, at 3:26 PM, alexkhan2000 wrote:

    There are many people, including Apple fans (myself included), who are waiting for iPad 2. Most people aren't early adopters.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2010, at 3:38 PM, fatalbert102 wrote:

    Great analysis if you assume Apple's iPad doesn't change in 1Q2011. Of course, we all know that it WILL change. About the time these other companies get tablets out that can compete with iPad 1.0, Apple will release iPad 2.0, likely with camera and facetime, faster processor, more memory, etc. My guess is the killer will be when Apple leverages the retina display technology to create a 7 or 9" iPad screen that can't be touched. Just as the iPhone 4's display is far and away the best smartphone display, so will be the case on the iPad. And then the competitors will be right back where they are today.....behind Apple, again. This is Apple's business cycle and precisely why first mover advantage in this tablet market was key. Your analysis is bunk. Even your own poll shows over 80% of respondents have or want an iPad. And when competitors do start to knock at the door, Apple will refresh. And the cycle begins again.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2010, at 3:49 PM, JohnatDuke wrote:

    I think your own survey debunked your own article. Your premise broke down on these two sentences:

    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.

    If Apple sticks to it's schedule - 80+% of your survey respondents will be waiting until April to see what is out. Just remember in the tablet world there is no separation due to carriers like in the phone world. Anyone can get a tablet.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2010, at 4:08 PM, fatalbert102 wrote:

    Of course we all know these articles are about the clicks anyway. Gotta get that click-thru traffic.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2010, at 4:58 PM, arbydude wrote:

    How is a Tegra Dual Core processor "Sorely missing" form the iPad? Means nothing... and iPad will obviously eventually have cameras (like the iPod Touch), so that whole point is moot. Plus, having two cameras and no software which uses it is kind of unproductive (see other tablets/phones with dual cameras like the EVO). Maybe some software has appeeared on the EVO since launch for this, but seems disorganized to me.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2010, at 5:08 PM, PeyDaFool wrote:

    I hate to admit it, Anders, but your "Which tablet are you waiting for" poll says it all:

    37% of pollsters already have an iPad

    38% of are waiting for the next iPad

    14% will not be purchasing a tablet

    12% are interested in the Android releases

    Consider these statistics:

    A "startling" 75% of responders are interested or already own Apple products. 14% could care less about tablets.

    ...that doesn't say much about the competition.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2010, at 5:17 PM, SwiperFox wrote:

    Exactly. Apple will always be on top, will always dominate, can't be beat...repeat ad infinitum, while Google/everyone else eats Apple's lunch.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2010, at 5:55 PM, bghouse wrote:

    I'm waiting for a 7" Apple ipad I can read in the sun

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2010, at 7:10 PM, Mark1Wagner wrote:

    I can almost always tell when a stock news feed comes from the Fool. Your article titles always seem more like propaganda... and I guessed correctly again.

  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2010, at 3:39 AM, Melci wrote:

    The Android tablet market is stillborn as Google wants manufacturers to use the Chrome OS and Web apps on tablets instead of Android. As a result Google refuses to allow Android tablets access to the Android Market unless they have expensive cell phone hardware as well.

    As a result, that tiny 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab comes in with an un-subsidised price of $1000.

    Not a great story if you want to compete with a $499 10" iPad.

    -Mart

  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2010, at 7:25 PM, beetlebug62 wrote:

    Hahahah! Hoohoohoo! Heeheehee! It's Anders Bylund with ANOTHER article about Apple and its impending doom. You're a good contrarian indicator, methinks.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 1:43 PM, zer0sum wrote:

    Frankly, I expect better than this from a Fool.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 2:16 PM, GetMeTheBigKnife wrote:

    Articles with shock titles and lame content are becoming the Fool norm. Next article: Motley Fools Days Are Numbered

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 6:22 PM, jonesericr wrote:

    I currently have an iPad 1st generation and don't plan to get 2.0. I'll wait until 3.0 or 4.0 and survey what the others are doing and where Apple is going. I don't require face time, hence I'm still rocking iPhone 3Gs and have no plans to move to iPhone 4 without some significant upgrade. Face time is a great gimmick but like NexTel's 2 way radio function unless the person you are speaking to has it what good is it? You can only use it with another person that has that phone.

    Besides I don't need to see the mug of whomever I'm speaking with while I'm "chillax'ng" on my couch.

    ej

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