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iPad remains ahead in tablet market

iPad remains ahead in tablet market

Tablets are flooding the market, but the iPad remains ahead.

An admission: my life has changed since I started using the Apple iPad. Apart from having shelled out the initial amount for the device (prices start at Rs 27,900), I find my credit card bill soaring. In the past six months, I have spent an estimated $200-plus (Rs 9,000) on applications and Archie Comics. Yes, I read far too many comics. But somehow reading them - and The Economist and Wired magazines as well - on the iPad has changed my reading experience altogether. Of course, the Apple iPad is not the only tablet in the market.

There are others - some better in some respects, but most not as good. There are arguments for and against every device. The common argument against the iPad is that it does not have a USB port. It can neither multitask nor can you drag and drop files onto it. You are forced to use Apple's iTunes. And of course, it does not run Adobe's Flash software, though the iPad's popularity is forcing websites to develop non-Flash iPad versions. But that said, the 'Retina Display' screen on the iPad2 is stunning, the larger screen size making a big difference. Of course it does impact portability.

Kushan Mitra
Kushan Mitra
The biggest plus of the iPad, however, is the access it provides to the iTunes Applications Store. This, incidentally, had at least one customer moving the Competition Commission of India , or CCI, with a pretty frivolous complaint about Apple's retail practices. Though the CCI is yet to take any decision, the fact that the complaint was filed at all indicates Apple's domination of the tablet marketplace.

The domination may not continue indefinitely because iPads are not cheap. But then the recently launched BlackBerry Playbook, seen by many as the iPad's closest competitor, is no less expensive, its cheapest version costing Rs 27,990.

I tried the Playbook recently and was impressed with its fast dual-core processor that can handle multitasking. This allows the user to watch a movie played by the device on a large TV screen, thanks to its high-definition multimedia interface output port while working on a spreadsheet on the tablet itself. And it has a better browser and better cameras. But it also has one critical flaw: it cannot send emails independently. You need to first connect it via Bluetooth to a BlackBerry mobile device to send emails. Executives of Research In Motion, or RIM, the makers of BlackBerry, claimed this tortuous means of sending a simple email was a great feature. What they did not mention either was this means a buyer will need to spend at least another Rs 13,000 for a 3G capable BlackBerry mobile.

At least iTunes is free, if not all that great. And while you might spend a lot on applications, at least they are fun applications. What about the army of other tablets running Google's Android operating system optimised for tablets called Honeycomb? There are the new Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Motorola Xoom and the HTC Flyer at the high end of the market available for around Rs 25,000, and several other products - such as the OlivePad costing around Rs 16,000 - which are at the more affordable end. These Android devices may one day dominate the Indian market, but right now, they have developmental issues, and are unable to compete with the iPad2. The cost of the cheaper tablets might soon fall below the Rs 10,000 price-point, which, coupled with the new broadband wireless systems, could see them take-off.

But right now, I feel the tablet market remains a market for one: the Apple iPad.