So Motorola's Xoom tablet is out -- but the iPad 2 is expected to be unveiled on Wednesday. Who could help but draw comparisons? Indeed, even though Apple hasn't confirmed the iPad 2 specs, even sight-unseen comparisons between the Xoom and the original iPad seem to bode well for Apple.
The Xoom won the CNET Best of Show award at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year for being "the most potentially disruptive technology." It's the first to run Google's Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system, and it's compatible with the upcoming Verizon Wireless 4G LTE . But analysts said that may not be enough.
"The big advantage Apple has over the entire tablet field is its brand," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis. "Apple is the pioneer. They are the ones that defined this space of consumer tablets running smartphone operating systems. That continues to set Apple apart. When people think about tablets, they first think of the iPad. Everything else is competing against it, so it's not just the Apple brand, but in some sense it's the iPad brand."
The Apple Advantage
Apple also has something else the Xoom doesn't have -- the App Store and iTunes. Although Google and Amazon.com have made efforts on the movie front -- and tablets offer a strong movie-watching experience -- Xoom customers will have some obstacles to downloading movies right onto the Xoom, at least at launch. Advantage: iPad.
"If you want to do more than web browsing and checking your e-mail on these devices, Apple has an enormous advantage through the App Store. There are over 60,000 apps specifically written for the tablet form factor," Greengart said. "That makes a huge difference in what you can do with the device. Google is playing catch-up. They've just released a new SDK for Honeycomb. So they are behind. Will they catch up? That's an open question."
Greengart said the Xoom has a strong e-mail and browsing experience, but beyond that it can't compare to Apple's app experience. Many smartphone Android apps crash on the Xoom, he said, so consumers will have to wait until developers update their apps for the Honeycomb operating system. The Android ecosystem is strong, though, and Greengart expects these early issues to be resolved.
"It would actually be easier in some ways if it is the iPad versus the Xoom. But it's not. It's the iPad against I can't even count how many Android tablets have been launched in the last few months. It's somewhere north of 100," Greengart said. "Some consumers, when faced with LG's Honeycomb tablet and Motorola's Honeycomb tablet and HTC's Android 2.4 tablet and Hewlett-Packard's webOS tablet and four different versions of Research In Motion's PlayBook, are going to have choice paralysis and go with the iPad."