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Can Anyone Really Compete With the iPad?

A few months ago, I said there was still plenty of room in the tablet market, despite the runaway success of the iPad. But as I discuss in my weekly column over at GigaOM Pro, I’m beginning to wonder if anyone else can come up with a hit tablet for mainstream consumers.

The iPad continues to gain ground. The Register insightfully noted that the 4.19 million units sold represented a 28 percent increase over the previous quarter, and iSuppli last week upped its forecast for fourth-quarter iPad sales, saying component-availability problems are improving.

The iPad’s success is due largely to the fact that it can replace lots of minor devices. It serves as an e-reader, mobile gaming system, digital photo album and portable media player, in addition to being a great device for browsing and running all sorts of other apps. It’s intuitive enough that anyone from my four-year-old to my great-grandmother can pick it up for the first time and use it successfully.

Yes, the device has obvious flaws, including a lack of Flash support and true multitasking functionality. But most of its shortcomings will surely be addressed in time, and, additionally, any real competition has yet to appear on the radar. Would-be manufacturers of Android-based tablets like Lenovo and LG have delayed product launches, citing the platform’s failings when it comes to the emerging form factor. Meanwhile, the price tag for Samsung’s Galaxy Tab won’t sway many shoppers away from the iPhone, and Dell’s $550 Streak hasn’t attracted much attention.

A handful of manufacturers are wisely vying for room in the space by targeting budget-conscious users with less-attractive hardware. Archos is building out an impressive line of gadgets that start at $100 and top out at only $300. Asus is taking a similar tack with $300 and $400 tablets. There will be room for high-end devices targeted at road warriors and workers in the field. (That’s a market Research In Motion will try to tap with its upcoming PlayBook and Hewlett-Packard is going after with the Slate 500.) When it comes to the mainstream tablet market, though, Apple will dominate the space, at least for the short-term.

Read the full post here.

Image courtesy flickr user John.Karatkatsanis.

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