iPad

Five ways iPad rivals can catch up with Apple's tablet

Steve Ranger's Notebook: And how they can even go about beating it...

...the other way: create a tablet that can play nicely with your existing kit. For example, a nice feature of the HP TouchPad is that it allows you to wirelessly pair it with a Pre3 smartphone. To share a web page between the two devices, all you have to do is touch them together.

Why not take that idea a bit further, by making it possible to instantly and infallibly pair tablets together, say - or even better, pair with other gadgets - to share information or play games? Or when you're browsing a film review on your tablet, simply swiping your remote control over the device to download it?

If you can persuade customers that your tablet can be at the heart of their mess of technology, and not an expensive add-on, they'll thank you.

2. User-friendliness is key

It's worth remembering that while tablets are still perceived as a new form factor, that shouldn't mean everything about them is new.

At the hardware level, iPad wannabes need to embrace standard kit - no proprietary or obscure connectors please. Equally, do include the ports we're familiar with. After all, the iPad 2 doesn't, offering no USB or SD memory card slots - both of which are extremely useful to the average user.

Apple Genius Bar

Being user-friendly means offering product support like Apple's Genius BarPhoto: Sarah Tew/CNET

On the software side, see also: supporting Flash. While Flash isn't in itself a compelling reason to buy any tablet, supporting it helps to make users' lives as easy as possible.

And in the spirit of user-friendliness, rivals need to make strides on the user experience front too. That doesn't mean just equalling what's in the iPad box, but also surpassing the ease of use and support the iPad offers - think Apple Store and its Genius Bars. Rivals ignore these softer issues at their peril.

3. Give business want they want

The iPad's success so far has been - mostly - in the consumer space. CIOs have been looking with envy at this shiny piece of kit, while staff have been going out and quietly buying their own, of course.

But the business market is still up for grabs, even if the recent announcement of Apple's business-friendly amendments to the App Store shows it is serious about getting some money out of those corporate IT budgets soon.

So what do businesses want? The same user-friendliness as everyone else - so nothing clunky and requiring a stylus, please - plus rock-solid security and device-management capabilities. The enterprise also needs a tablet to be plug-and-play with their existing IT estate and software, without extra licensing costs. Oh, and it shouldn't mean they have to...

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

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