iPad vs. Kindle vs. Galaxy Tab vs. Streak vs. Playbook

People are stupid. Well, maybe they aren’t stupid so much as short-sighted. In the never-ending need for bloggers and news outlets to proclaim “winners” and “losers” in various markets, very little thoughtful insight actually occurs. Consider: for months there have been post after post after article after article about the “competition” between the Kindle and the iPad. Would the iPad make the Kindle obsolete? Could the Kindle keep up? Of course that frenzy has died down when the truth became evident: the Kindle and the iPad are VERY different devices with different target demographics, different prices, different purposes, different features, different prices, etc. For some reason, it never occurred to the tech-review community that soccer mom’s in Phoenix wanting to read a book by the pool had very different needs in their device then an NYC commuter who wants to play games or watch movies while riding the Subway.

Well, here we are again. The Samsung Galaxy Tab looks AWESOME. The Dell 7″ Streak will presumably be similar to the SamGalTab, so it should be awesome as well (assuming Dell ships it with a decent processor and Android 2.2). And in the spirit of “being predictable and not very creative” the articles are starting to come again. Who will WIN the tablet space? Can Android compete with iPad!? What will the next iPad look like!? Will the 7″ form factor of the Samsung and the Dell be useful enough that Apple will respond with a 7″ iPad!?

At the risk of sounding pretentious, there is a reason reporters are reporters and not innovators and inventors. Why do I say this? Because these comparison articles are silly in the same way that writing an article comparing the Kindle and the iPad is silly, in the same way an article comparing a Ford F-150 and a Chevy Cobalt is silly. These products are different enough – significantly different enough – from each other that trying to do an apples-to-apples comparison on a blog is a waste of bandwidth.

As for me, I’ll be buying both an IPad (likely holding out for version 2 or at least a version of a new OS that supports multi-tasking) and a 7″ Android device. Both software platforms have advantages but more importantly, each device has some very specific strengths that can not be replicated on the other. For example, the Galaxy Tab (let’s use that as the 7″ example) has GPS, access to augmented reality apps like Layar, and access to the Kindle app. So if I were on vacation to New York City it would make sense for me to have my Galaxy Tab with me. I could use it to get around town, find points of interest (and info about those things) and then rock it as an e-reader when I’m getting ready to go to sleep at the hotel. The 7″ form factor makes it a great device for carrying around on a tour of Wall Street. Similarly, the iPad is a little big to be hauling around as I walk from city block to city block, but its size and selection of applications make it a great choice for watching a movie on my flight from Austin to NYC, a better choice then the 7″ device for editing a powerpoint presentation that my employees send while I’m gone, and a great choice for flipping through the New York Times while I’m having breakfast.

Keep in mind I don’t own either device and it already is clear to me that the usefullness of each stands on its own. 7″ devices and 10″ (basically, the iPad is 9.7) devices are good for different things the way a 10″ netbook and a 17″ laptop are good for different things. Yes, much of the functionality will overlap but at the end of the day the form factor will present enough difference that certain tasks or activities will be indisputably better on one device compared to the other. And just as the right answer to “what kind of computer should I get?” is “what are you going to use it for?”, the right answer for “what tablet should i get?” is the same.

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4 Responses

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