Apple iPad's rivals are coming

I get that Apple's iPad is hotter than hot with over three million sold so far, but to say "Apple has won the battle for tablet computing already" is really overreaching. I mean, come on: the Android Linux-based tablets -- or if you insist, the iPad killers -- weren't even supposed to start showing up until mid-summer.

Guess what? They're finally starting to show up. The Dell Streak, a cross between a smartphone and a tablet, will be out later this summer. It will first show up with Android 1.6 under the hood, but it will be user upgradeable to the latest release Android 2.2, Froyo.

At the same time, Kmart, of all places, is advertising the Augen 7-in. tablet, the GENTOUCH78, on sale for just $150 through July 31. Don't rush out to your local Kmart, though. The demand has already been so high for this tablet, even sight unseen, that most Kmart retail stores are handing out rain checks.

This tablet has a touch panel LCD screen with an 800x480 resolution, 800MHz ARM processor, 2GBs of internal memory, 256MB of RAM, a SD card slot with support for up to 16GB and 802.11n Wi-Fi. The awkwardly named GENTOUCH78 uses Android's 2.1. I think we can safely presume though that it too can be upgraded to Android 2.2, which supports Adobe Flash and is much faster at dealing with Java and JavaScript.

If you find this stutter-step approach to supporting the latest and greatest version of Android to be annoying, just think about how the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) feel about it. They really want to be pulling would-be iPad customers away from Apple with far cheaper Linux tablets.

Their business logic is that while they may not be able to get the people who are willing to pay a premium for the Apple brand name, they certainly can get customers who want a tablet at an affordable price. Perhaps the fact that the first Android tablet to hit the market in North America is arriving at a discount store really isn't that remarkable after all.

But until they can get the new and, by all reports, much better Android on their test devices and ensure they have a reasonable competitor to the iPad, they won't be drawing customers away from the iPad. But give them time. By the time the 2010 holiday season rolls around, there will be dozens of Android Linux-based tablets available for every budget. And then, we can finally see if there's an iPad killer among them.

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