iPad alternatives

Companies including HP, Neofonie and Notion Ink are creating devices to rival Apple's popular upcoming tablet

By , IDG News Service |  Hardware

Apple's iPad will be available on April 3 and reports suggest that the product is off to a good start, with hundreds and thousands being ordered from Apple's Web site. But the device has faced some criticism for lacking features such as a video camera, USB ports and support for technology called Flash that enables Web video.

But those technologies could be available in iPad alternatives reaching the market soon, including Neofonie's WePad, Hewlett-Packard's Slate, Notion Ink's Adam and Innovative Converged Devices' Ultra. These handheld devices have diagonal screen sizes from 7 inches to 11.6 inches and will be based on Google's Android Linux OS or Windows 7.

WePad

German company Neofonie has announced WePad, which it says has features the iPad lacks, including Flash support, a larger screen, a webcam and two USB ports.

The WePad has an 11.6-inch display compared to iPad's 9.7-inch display. But at 800 grams (1.76 pounds), it is heavier than the 680-gram iPad. This is a big drawback considering tablets are supposed to be handheld devices.

The WePad runs on a 1.66GHz Atom N450 processor, compared to Apple's A4 chip, which includes a 1GHz processor. Apple's chip may offer better graphics than the WePad, as the Atom processor is barely capable of 720p video. The WePad offers 16GB of storage and runs the Android OS.

The company did not respond to requests for comment on price and availability. However, more information is available on WePad's Web site.

HP's Slate

HP hasn't been as successful as Apple with handheld devices, but hopes to get some mojo back with its upcoming slate product. The HP Slate, running Windows 7, was shown by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Like the iPad, the HP Slate is designed to allow users to read e-books, surf the Web, view video and play games.

HP worked on the slate concept for five years, and the device takes advantage of the low-cost, low-power processors and touch features offered by Windows 7, said Phil McKinney, HP's chief technology officer, in a video. The device must run on an Intel or x86 processor, as Arm processors don't yet support Windows 7.

It's a real product, not just a concept, McKinney says, adding that it will be available later in 2010 at "mainstream" price points. Recent rumors suggest the device will be available in May for around US$550. HP declined to comment.

Innovative Converged Devices' Ultra

ICD promises two new tablets: Ultra, which could be an iPad alternative, and Vega, which the company calls a "low-cost, large-screen, in-home device with complete connectivity."

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