It may seem like sacrilege to suggest that the day may come when Apple no longer owns the tablet market, but that day is coming – just not right away.

The problem with the iPad is that it is constantly running behind itself.  For example, when the original iPad came out, there was no front-facing camera, making it useless for Apple’s own videoconferencing application (let alone Skype, etc.)  Then, with iPad 2, there was no 4G capability, even though AT&T had announced 4G a few weeks prior to Apple’s launch.  And, as slick as the design of the iPad 2 is, it still looks like the Star Trek Next Generation PADD designed by Mike Okuda over 20 years ago (http://tinyurl.com/29tvorx).

Not that this is a bad thing – the iPad design is functional, just not as elegant as it could be.  In short, it is not truly “Appleish.”

Along comes Sony with their “S” tablet:

Not only is this tablet nice looking, it performs superbly as well.  First, the looks.  Instead of a uniformly thick plate, the “S” is tapered, kind of like folding a magazine back around itself.  This makes it easy to hold in portrait mode, and provides a nice typing angle when used in landscape mode.  Second, it is the lightest tablet on the market at this time – significantly lighter than the iPad 2.  The only physical design flaw I could see is the pop-out door for the USB and SD card slots (slots the iPad doesn’t even have.)  This door is just asking to be broken off by users who are either young, or who are trying to do things too quickly.  This, though, is the only physical design flaw.

As for performance, the unit I tested has the smoothest motion I’ve seen when it comes to moving stuff on the screen, or moving an entire screen full of graphics.  A lot of work went into having this tablet reek of excellence and, at similar pricing to the iPad, the Android-based Sony “S” is a device to watch closely.

The tablet world will continue to grow, and Apple’s lead will continue to decline.  Don’t weep for Apple, though, they have always done well as a minority player.  In fact, the best thing about the new competition in the tablet marketplace is that all new tablets (including the next one from Apple) are likely to advance even faster than they would if Apple had the market to itself.

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