The tablets are coming, but none are iPad killers

Tablet mania, finally, is here.  Back in January, at the Consumer Electronics Show, a slew of these devices were introduces, including HP’s rather nice Windows 7 based slate.  Funny thing, once the iPad debuted, most of the announced devices were put on hold or cancelled.  Well, we are finally starting to see some of them hit the market.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Augen tablet hit K-Mart for $150(US).  The Augen tablet, sporting the Android operating system, looked tempting at that price, but reviews have not been kind and Google ‘convinced’ Augen to remove any Google branding from the device, which meant removing the non-functional Android Marketplace – the Android equivalent of the iTunes App Store.

HP announced it’s Windows 7 slate WILL, in fact, make it to market.  The catch is that it will be priced for the Enterprise and NOT the consumer.  What HP will sell to consumers, in 2011, is a Palm WebOS powered slate.  This one should not only be priced competitively with the iPad, but should also give it a run for the money.  webOS is a finger friendly and consumer friendly operating system that is currently in the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi smartphones.

VelocityMicroTabletVelocity Micro, based here in Richmond, has announced it’s Micro Cruz Reader and Tablet. Priced at $199 and $299, the devices come close to iPad in terms of functionality and beat it in pricing. Both feature the Android operating system and are geared for consumers with multi media, games, eBooks and web browsing as the primary uses.

Pandigital has been selling it’s Novel eReader device for months now.  The device, priced under $200, is, again, more than just an eReader.  Like the Velocity devices, it runs Android and has similar uses.  It is available, now, at retailers like Kohl’s, Bed Bath and Beyond and, oddly, Walgreen’s.  It has received generally positive reviews. It LOOKS like a decent buy and those that I know who have one have given me mixed reviews.  One person loves it while another returned it and bought a Nook, saying that the screen quality was not what they had liked. Engadget has a review of the Novel here. They are less than impressed with the device.

Other tablet like devices, including the Nook and Kindle, are available now, though with more limited functionality.  Kindle 3 will be shipping soon and appears to be more fully featured than its older siblings.

If, like me, you like this form factor, the next six to nine months should be pretty interesting.  Perhaps, though, the most interesting thing in this space is the dearth of Microsoft powered devices.  HP’s slate is pretty much it.  A few Windows CE devices are already out or are coming out, but these things are to be avoided like the plague.  They are underpowered, cheaply made and, generally, serve no relevant purpose.  Spend the extra money and get the Velocity, Pandigital or HP webOS device.  Or, buy the iPad. 

Of course, the best, and cheapest, tablet around is the one with the name ‘Legal’ and ‘Pad’ attached to it (of course, you must use the ‘Bic’ stylus with it.)

Follow geogray on Twitter

UPDATE: added Engadget review link.

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