Demand Rising For iPad Competitors


Tablets such as Motorola’s Xoom and RIM’s PlayBook are seeing strong orders from Taiwanese manufacturers

Demand and expectations are indeed high for tablet computers that aren’t branded iPad, according to reports from component makers out of Taiwan.

Digitimes reported that Quanta Computer has begun producing 1 million Research In Motion PlayBook tablets for the first quarter, underscoring pent-up demand for the enterprise-oriented tablet.

Xoom tablet orders

The news website also cited industry sources claiming Motorola has placed orders for 700,000 to 800,000 Xoom tablet units, with orders ramping to 1 million for the first quarter. Xoom’s big draw is that it features the tablet-optimised Android 3.0 operating system.

Coupled with the 1 million-plus Samsung Galaxy Tabs sold, that would mean 3 million non-iPad tablets shipped through the first quarter of this year. That figure seems solid until one considers that Apple sold 4.2 million iPads in the last quarter alone.

Even so, RIM and Motorola are hungry to catch some of the fire Apple has lit with its iPad, which has sold anywhere from 14 million to 15 million units to date.

eWEEK tested the 7-inch-screen RIM PlayBook with a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month.

eWEEK’s Nick Kolakowski found the device to be a solid entry, with tethering perks to help corporate road warriors port their BlackBerry content to a larger screen.

PlayBook’s BlackBerry Tablet OS offers users gridlike screens of individual applications, allowing users to easily swipe their finger through thumbnails apps.

Wi-Fi-only PlayBook coming

RIM will launch a Wi-Fi-only version of the PlayBook this quarter, with a 4G-enabled version coming from Sprint this summer.

The Xoom offers a roomier 10.1-inch screen than the PlayBook and is powered by the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor, which means it should easily be faster than the iPad.

Google Android engineer Mike Cleron showed off the Xoom on 6 January at CES, where the device was feted as the best of the dozens of tablets introduced at the show.

The Xoom, with thumbnail access points for touch gestures and multitasking capabilities instead of physical buttons, clearly looked to be a viable iPad challenger.

The Xoom will launch in February on Verizon’s 3G network, and will be upgradable to Verizon’s 4G LTE network later this year.

However, just as RIM and Motorola gird to launch their first tablets, Apple is producing its iPad 2, which will sport two cameras for video chat, among other features.

Expect an early spring launch for the iPad 2, if not sooner, as Apple seeks to lengthen its long tablet lead.

Forrester analyst Sara Rotman Epps said she expects the iPad to capture the lion’s share of the 24.1 million tablet sales she forecasted for 2011.

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