CES: Apple faces iPad tablet challengers

Apple isn’t at CES once again this year and as per usual Cupertino’s shadow looms above the giant US trade show, where it seems competitors, including Microsoft, intend introducing their own iPad competitors, even as we learn that existing Android tablets may never get a software upgrade. Some highlights:

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DisplaySearch analyst Richard Semenza estimates that a hundred different tablets are in development, though not all of them will ship. “For the next year or two, we expect there to be a lot of false starts, failed attempts, and disasters,” Richard Shim, another DisplaySearch analyst, said in a blog post.

Competitors including Motorola, Microsoft, Toshiba and others are all planning to introduce tablets at CES later this week: but will they strike gold or die in the water?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to introduce his company’s response to iOS/Android systems, promising Windows-powered touch tablets and a device which competes with the Apple TV and Google TV prodiucts.

Brier Dudley reports for the Seattle Times: “Microsoft’s going to make a splash in this market with a stripped-down version of Windows tailored for set-top boxes and connected TVs. The software is a version of its embedded device software, overlaid with the Windows Media Center interface, with media streaming and remote-control capabilities.

Toshiba intends introducing a 10-inch device, the Toshiba Tablet will include a touch screen that measures 10.1 inches diagonally and will run Android’s Honeycomb when it ships. Though it won’t appear until June 30, when Apple’s likely to fight back with iPad 2.0.

All may not be well in the land of Android — existing tablet users (primarily of the Android-powered Galaxy Tab) are likely to be annoyed at news that the forthcoming Android Honeycomb OS upgrade seems unlikely to work on their devices.

Android Honeycomb will require a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor to run properly, according to Bobby Cha, managing director of Korean consumer electronics firm Enspert.( Motorola, incidentally, will be first to market with a Honeycomb-powered tablet.

At best, this will mean Google will be maintaining a two parallel OS developments to cater for existing Android-powered devices, one for those running the Cortex-A8, such as Galaxy Tab, the other for the new Honeycomb range.

Component costs remain high, though Cha believes these will fall eventually. However, at present, Apple’s competitors are offering a range of unreleased product promises and an already confused software upgrade strategy.

Apple meanwhile is expected to up the ante on competition when it introduces iPad 2.0 later this year, perhaps in time for Valentine’s Day.

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