iPad Killers Are Even Further Behind Apple Than Thought

| About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)
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Apple CEO Steve Jobs will spend much of his time talking about the next-gen iPhone at the WWDC powwow later today, but rest assured there will be plenty of iPad chest thumping.

And why not? Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has sold more than 2 million iPads and Jobs will probably provide another update. Meanwhile, Jobs’ keynote comes a week after the Computex conference where a bevy of tablets showed up.

Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore sums up the Computex themes:

  • Android tablets are the farthest along in terms of competing with the iPad;
  • Windows 7 tablets seem sluggish;
  • But no one can come close to touching the iPad.

In fact, Whitmore sees a bit of clear sailing for the iPad. For starters, netbooks are about to get crushed by ultra-portables as well as tablets. And then there’s the state of competition. Whitmore said the Dell Streak was responsive and fast, but it’s not really in the iPad category with half the screen size.

Whitmore writes:

Looking ahead, we expect a rash of tablets to enter the market in 4Q in time for the holiday selling season, with more models launching in 2011. Most of the units at the show were prototypes and not available for consumption or ready for market. For example, Intel had a host of products on display at its booth enclosed in plastic and unavailable for testing. Microsoft had several prototypes on display and one working prototype that we tried (Win 7). We found the UI to be very slow, lack responsiveness and difficult to use. Meanwhile, the highly publicized Asus Eee Pad that we tested (Tegra + Windows Embedded Compact 7) is clearly not ready for prime time…

We found the Android solutions to be further ahead from a design/development standpoint. At the Qualcomm booth, we tested the Dell Streak. We found this device surprisingly usable, fast and responsive. However, in aggregate, nothing we saw could ‘touch’ the iPad from either a user experience or ecosystem standpoint. If anything, the competition is even further behind Apple in this category that we thought.

Why are these rivals behind on the iPad? It appears that Apple caught them by surprise. While the focus was on netbooks, companies apparently underestimated the iPad. Now if looks like Apple may have a full year head start in the tablet market.

ZDNet’s John Morris hits a similar theme. Writing about Computex, Morris says:

This year was supposed to be the year of the tablet, but it hasn’t really turned out that way. That’s not to say tablets aren’t a big presence here in Taiwan. There’s certainly lots of talk of tablets and in fact there are plenty of tablets, but nearly all of them are prototypes. In many cases, these tablets don’t even boot up-they’re just slabs sitting safely behind glass. Real tablets that you can actually touch and try out are few and far between.

Many people at the show attribute this to the iPad effect. Major PC and consumer electronics companies were preparing to release tablets earlier this year, but Apple’s iPad forced them to go back to the drawing board.

While the iPhone is likely to be the focus on WWDC, don’t be surprised if the iPad steals the show.

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