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Steve Jobs shocked the electronics industry by delivering a 33 percent thinner iPad.  (Source: AFP)

Samsung will soon release its own Galaxy Tab-branded competitor in the approximately 10-inch form factor, but price, size, and battery life may be issues.
Company says it's hard at work trying to make the changes necessary to stay competitive

It looks like Apple bought itself a bit more time atop the market with the announcement of the iPad 2.  With Android tablets coming on strong and competitors like HP's webOS and Microsoft's Windows 7 waiting in the ranks, all eyes were on Apple March 2.  The company delivered an impressive device that shrunk the form factor, increased the processing power, maintained the battery life, and according to numerous unconfirmed reports, will double the amount of RAM to 512 MB.

The iterative hardware improvements weren't much of a surprise to the electronics industry.  What seemed to take them aback was the form factor.  Lee Don-Joo, executive vice president of mobile devices at South Korean device maker Samsung told South Korea's publicly funded Yonhap News Agency, "We will have to improve the parts that are inadequate [in our tablets]. Apple made it very thin."

The iPad 2 is an incredible .35 inches thin -- approximately a third of an inch.  That's approximately 33 percent thinner than the first-gen thickness of 0.5 inch and thinner even than the 0.472 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab was the first major Android tablet to be billed as a possible "iPad slayer".  However, the device was quite different from Apple's in its strengths and weaknesses.  While packing superior hardware, it featured a smaller 7.0-inch (diagonal) LCD screen and debuted at nearly $900 USD without contract.  Those factors caused many tablet buyers to stick with the iPad, which had an entry level Wi-Fi-only price of $499 and 9.7-inch screen.

Today Motorola has taken up the Mantle of "iPad killer" with its new Xoom dual-core Android "Honeycomb" tablet.  But Samsung is hungry for mores success of its own, and will soon release a new Honeycomb 10.1-inch tablet of its own, pricing on which hasn't been confirmed.

Mr. Lee comments, "The 10-inch (tablet) was to be priced higher than the seven-inch but we will have to think that over."

To put things in perspective, between October and December Samsung sold 2 million Galaxy Tab devices, while Apple sold 15 million iPads between April and December.  That gap becomes more noticeable when you consider how far behind Android devices have left the iPhone in the mobile market.

The iPad 2, like the first generation model, doesn't exactly pack the most incredible hardware in the world.  What it does do, however, is offer an impressive form factor and equally noteworthy battery life.  Both of those marks were complaints about the recent Xoom -- it was too bulky/heavy and the battery life fell short of promised figures.

Both metrics are even more critical to tablets than they are to some other mobile devices like laptops.  While you can always plug in a laptop, you seldom run a tablet plugged in, so battery life is essential.  And while your notebook computer rests comfortably on a table or your lap, you actually hold the tablet, so weight becomes a major issue.

And what is equally surprising is that price may be the key thing keeping the iPad as the top selling tablets.  Apple has a long-standing reputation of delivering high-end gadgets, which -- according to some -- are more than a bit overpriced.  But with the iPad it has delivered a more minimalistic hardware set and a remarkably low hardware price.

When it comes to tablets, it's still Apple's game to lose.  If it can maintain its mobility edge (battery life, form factor) and price edge it may be able to hold on to its lead even as Android brings out the big guns processing power-wise.

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If only people weren't so vapid...
By Motoman on 3/4/2011 2:00:59 PM , Rating: 1 to place such form concerns over function.

Apple's ridiculous focus on form over function has been a massive source of their poor quality...forever. Devices that overheat, casings that discolor, etc.

The original iPad already couldn't be used in normal outdoor summer conditions...which is probably a key reason why many people would want such a device. This is just going to make things worse.

Technology is not magic, people. The reason that a laptop, tablet, phone, whatever isn't paper-thin is because physics has certain laws that govern the way the universe works. There are enormous problems trying to squeeze such devices to ever-smaller form factors...there is always a price to be paid. And frequently, particularly with Apple products, the price is paid by the consumer...not so much in the $ amount, but in the quality and fitness-for-purpose of the device itself.

Although it is certainly valid to be utterly disappointed in anyone who purchases an Apple product in the first place - to make a big deal about saving minuscule, irrelevant amounts of thickness for such a device only further demonstrates the utter lack of appreciation for reality such people have.

RE: If only people weren't so vapid...
By KoolAidMan1 on 3/5/2011 12:05:32 AM , Rating: 2
In many cases, form is function. I buy Corsair PC cases because they are well thought out and logically designed. Same with Steelseries keyboards and mice, great material quality and physical design. Macbook Pros are incredibly well designed, and their combination of thin/light chassis, compact power adapters, long battery life, horsepower, and high quality displays have real practical value to them.

I obviously don't own an iPad 2, but I do have a Kindle 3. I love the device, it is excellent. It is also about as thick as the iPad 2, which is great. The Kindle 3 is fantastic to hold in one's hand, fits perfectly and you can read for hours. An iPad at the same thickness serves a practical purpose: it is easy to hold. That is the point of the tablet form factor. Something thick and heavy like the HP tm2 or the Asus EP121, not so practical in terms of the tablets from an ergonomic point of view.

Believe it or not, physical design goals, material quality, and the way that we physically interact with devices has real practical value and is actually important to most people.

RE: If only people weren't so vapid...
By Motoman on 3/5/2011 9:58:58 AM , Rating: 2
I buy Corsair PC cases because they are well thought out and logically designed.

That's it right there - that's what you should be doing. However, when the form of a device negatively impacts it's function...such as not being able to use an iPad outdoors during the summer...then the design is neither well thought-out or logically designed.

I get that a tablet isn't useful if it's 4" thick. I also get that it is absolutely counter-productive if losing that last couple of millimeters results in a device that no longer functions appropriately.

Of course form is important - it's why people don't all dress exactly the same, for example. You've missed my point though, which isn't that form has no importance...the point is that form is not so important that you are justified in sacrificing the function of the item to achieve some particular form.

RE: If only people weren't so vapid...
By KoolAidMan1 on 3/6/2011 2:27:27 AM , Rating: 2
I haven't run into the problem of iPads overheating in the sun, and I've had one for almost a year.

To me the biggest issue in that scenario actually isn't heat, it is the LCD display itself. No LCD is going to look good in broad daylight. This is why I have a Kindle, looks spectacular in that situation, and IMHO is a better surface to read on. That said, it has its own technical limitations, which is why I have two devices for very different purposes. I have no issues with the engineering of any of the products I've mentioned.

By Motoman on 3/6/2011 10:43:28 AM , Rating: 2
Poor quality and engineering problems of Apple devices are exhaustively documented and plastered all over the internet. Just because you personally haven't experienced them doesn't mean they don't exist.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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