Tablets: ‘Why Should Somebody Buy This Instead of an iPad?’

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5. “I have noticeably different software.”

xoomfrontNotice that I’m not listing “noticeably better software” as an option here. It’s possible that a tablet will come along at some point with software that’s clearly a great leap forward beyond iOS, in the same way that the iPhone software was clearly a major advance beyond the Palm OS and its rivals. But if anyone’s working on that software right now, they’re managing to keep it a deep secret.

For now, software is subjective, and anyone shopping for a tablet is entitled to prefer one operating system over another based on subtle matters of personal preference. I think Google’s Android 3.1 Honeycomb is quite impressive, and it’s got its own personality; some people are going to enjoy using it more than iOS. I’m also hopeful about HP’s Web OS as seen on the TouchPad. (RIM’s PlayBook tablet OS , on the other hand, needs lots and lots of work to get in the game.)

Any examples? The still-small number of shipping tablets that run Honeycomb offer an experience that’s both different from the iPad 2 and enjoyable.

6. “I have better entertainment services.”

Apple’s iTunes Store is still the planet’s most comprehensive purveyor of digital entertainment, with music, movies, and TV shows that play on the iPad, the iPhone, the iPod Touch, Macs, and PCs, and which can be synced and shuttled from gizmo to gizmo in a variety of ways. If you don’t like iTunes, you can use Netflix or Hulu Plus or Rhapsody or Napster or Rdio or MOG or MLB At Bat or the ABC app or any of numerous other apps.

Any examples? Nope, and Google is just getting its music and movie services off the ground. Along with third-party apps, this is one of the most daunting leads Apple has on the competition. Maybe it’ll be a third party (coughcoughAmazon) who cuts into Apple’s gigantic lead, not a platform provider or hardware maker.

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