Can 'Vapor' Tablets Compete With the iPad?

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 |  Includes: AAPL, HPQ
by: Sam Diaz

When Apple COO Tim Cook was asked yesterday about the flood of tablet computers that were showcased at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, his reply really resonated with me.

Bottom line: none of those devices - the Motorola Xoom, the Blackberry Playbook and others - have actually shipped yet. So, for now, they’re “vapor,” he said.

And that’s exactly what the latest headline grabbers - the Topaz and Opal tablets from HP/Palm - are, too. They’re vapor. They don’t exist yet. And until they do, can they really be a major factor in my buying decision?

Actually, yes they can.

You see, I’m excited about owning a tablet computer but I’m just not ready to jump into Apple’s walled garden yet. The iPad is a beautifully designed and engineered product but I’ve resisted taking that plunge because of my own personal use cases (I “create” a lot of content), as well as the limitations that Apple has placed on it. (Say what you will about Flash but that really is a dealbreaker for me - for now.)

In some ways, it’s like smartphone de ja vu all over again. Sure, the iPhone was a game changer in the smartphone space - but I wasn’t willing to go the AT&T (NYSE:T) route just for the sake of having the coolest gadget. And so I waited - and waited and waited - for the iPhone to either hit Verizon (NYSE:VZ) or for something just as good (and maybe even better) to come along. And eventually, it surfaced. I bought a Droid Incredible and love it. And I’m already eying the 4G Thunderbolt as its upgrade replacement.

But now, that tablets are on my mind, I plan to take utilize my smartphone strategy again. I’ll wait.

Maybe that means that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will create a new iPad that better suits my needs. Or maybe one of the Android partners will come out with something that leaves a lasting impression with me. Who knows? The product that earns my hard-earned dollars might be on the BlackBerry or Windows platforms.

I just know that when it comes time for me to buy a tablet - and that day is not too far off in the future - I want to have choices. I want to be able to compare this tablet to that tablet and weigh the pros and cons of each of them as it relates to my needs and wants. I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon just for the sake of, frankly, trying to impress people with the device in my hand. And I don’t want to have to compromise the experience because Steve Jobs and Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) have gotten into some sort of geek stand-off.

Which brings me back to that “vapor” comment. Yes, those other tablets may be vapor for now. And, given that there’s really no comparison yet - they look inferior to the iPad. But that won’t last forever. Those tablets will soon hit the market. And some competition in this space - some real competition - can only be a good thing for guys like me.

As the old saying goes: Good things come to those who wait.

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