Apple's iPad faces some serious competition this year, with scores of Android and Windows tablets about to hit the market that offer several features the iPad lacks.
Last year only the Samsung Galaxy Tab could even remotely compete with the iPad but more than 100 firms are expected to unveil tablet computers at the Consumer Electronics Show, which officially opens today and features more than 2600 exhibitors.
Analyst firm Yankee Group believes the global market for tablets will almost triple by the end of 2014 from $US16 billion in 2010 to $US46 billion in 2014.
The iPad has dominated the market - over 12 million sold so far - and Apple has clearly set the tone in terms of design but several of the newer Android and Windows 7 tablets announced at CES contain features not found on the iPad, such as dual cameras, higher screen resolution and slide-out keyboards.
The much-rumoured iPad 2 is expected to rectify some of these shortfalls. Not included in this years CES line-up is HP's WebOS talet, which is expected to be announced next month and includes the WebOS platform from Palm, which HP recently acquired.
Of note in the CES tablet announcements is the new version of Android, 3.0, which was designed from the ground up with tablets in mind.
Sony, one of the only major manufacturers that did not announce a tablet at CES, said it was working on a tablet that would potentially offer unique features such as a 3D display.
"It's a catch-22 ... if I want to differentiate it from competitors do I release it tomorrow or do I wait until I differentiate? We see the [competitor] tablets coming out but we need to put a tablet in the marketplace that is competitive and differentiated," Sony's global chairman and CEO, Sir Howard Stringer, said in a CES roundtable session.
A 10.1-inch tablet based on the latest "Honeycomb" iteration (version 3.0) of Google's Android platform. Available in the first half of this year, the Xoom is around the same size as Apple's iPad but contains a 5-megapixel camera with 720p video recording, a 2-megapixel webcam, HDMI output for connecting to a big-screen TV, a 1GHz processor and a 1280x800 screen resolution. The Honeycomb version of Android offers new features such as multi-tasking and tabbed browsing. Support for Adobe Flash is also included.
The biggest gripe of iPad users is the difficulty in typing on the on-screen keyboard and Samsung has taken note - its TX100 offers a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard. Like the Xoom it has a 10.1-inch screen but offers a higher 1366 x 768 resolution. It runs the regular version of Windows 7, is 0.78 inches thick and contains either 32GB or 64GB of storage. Separately, a Wi-Fi-only version of the already launched Galaxy Tab was unveiled at CES.
Asus Eee Pad Slider and Transformer
Two very similar tablets except the Slider has a slide-out keyboard while the Transformer has a clip-on keyboard similar to the iPad accessory. They run Android 3.0, have 10.1-inch screens and feature the Nvidia Tegra 2 chip. There are front- and rear- facing cameras offering 1.2-megapixel and 5-megapixel resolutions respectively. Priced between $US499 to $US799
Another Windows 7 tablet, the slate has a large 12.1-inch screen, 64GB of built-in storage, 1280x800 screen resolution and a powerful Intel i5 processor. It will sell for $US999 to $US1099.
Panasonic Viera Tablet
This one is a little different from most tablets in that it is not designed to be a portable computer but rather a companion to Panasonic's new Viera Connect TVs. It lets users access Panasonic's TV apps and stream content wirelessly from their TV set. Panasonic says it will serve as a second screen in the living room that lets people browse content related to what they're watching on TV (e.g. sports scores or tweets). The Viera Tablet can also be used as a remote control and content can be transferred seamlessly between the tablet and the TV.
Dell Streak 7
Dell's 5-inch Streak wasn't met with rave reviews due to it launching with the older Android version 1.6 and fears a 5-inch screen was too small for a tablet when many newer smartphones were only a fraction smaller. The Streak 5-inch has since been updated to Android 2.2 and at CES Dell launched a new version, the Dell Streak 7, with a bigger 7-inch screen and new bells and whistles such as an Nvidia Tegra dual-core processor and the sturdy Corning Gorilla Glass. The tablet, also running Android 2.2, runs on 4G networks and there are no plans yet to launch it in Australia.
Another smaller 7-inch tablet but this one runs Android 3.0. Priced at $US499 to $US699 with a June launch date, it has dual cameras and can play HD video.
Lenovo IdeaPad U1
Shown at last year's CES, the U1 is now closer to being ready for market. It contains a unique design in that it is essentially laptop with a detachable 11.6-inch screen that then becomes a tablet with a more touch-friendly interface. Lenovo says the Android tablet will cost around $US1000 and launch in June/July.
Launching in the first-half of this year, Toshiba's attempt to take on the iPad features a 10-1-inch screen, runs Android 3.0 and offers built-in Wi-Fi but no 3G support. Starting at $US499, it has front- and rear-facing cameras, access to an application store and weighs 0.8kg.
LG tablet and glasses-free portable 3D TV
LG announced an 8.9-inch tablet running Android 3.0 and using an Nvidia dual-core processor. It has yet to show off images of the device. It also unveiled a mobile DTV unit that supports 3D without the need for glasses. The unique device has a touchscreen and a 480x800 screen resolution.
Already launched in Japan, the Galapagos will hit the US in the second half of this year but it is not clear if it will reach Australia. There will be two models - 5.5-inch and 10.8-inch - and both will connect to the Galapagos e-book store.
Asher Moses travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of Sony.