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

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

It's been 18 months since the iPad launched and yet none of Apple's competitors has managed to create a genuine rival. editor Steve Ranger looks at some of the ways Apple's rivals can try to catch up with this runaway success.

Right now the iPad is a touchscreen tyrannosaurus, a wi-fi wunderkind, a tabletop tornado that the rest of the industry just can't catch up with.

It's been 18 months since the launch of the iPad and despite the best efforts of some of the biggest names in technology to pump out compelling rival products, as far as the buying public is concerned, there might just as well be only one tablet in the shops.

In fact, right now the iPad's only competition is itself. The one thing that will stop people shelling out for the iPad 2 is the iPad 3, whenever that arrives.

Apple's third quarter results last week illustrated the Everest that iPad rivals have to climb: Apple sold nine million tablets in the quarter.

Apple iPad

Apple's iPad is the one to beat in the tablet marketImage: Apple

In that long 18 months, Apple's rivals have been busy - and there is plenty of competition out there in the consumer space, thanks to the launch of the Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab and HTC Flyer to name but a few.

Even Asda - not usually known to be at the cutting edge of consumer electronics - has got in on the game, offering an Android tablet for a mere £99.

And yet none of these have managed to create the same kind of excitement - and sales - that the iPad has.

The questions remain: can anyone catch Apple? And just how would they do it?

1. Be more open

A stand-alone tablet can feel like a bit of a luxury, but if you can integrate it with your other kit it becomes a lot more useful and a more appealing purchase.

At the moment, the iPad is rather splendid in its isolation. Now that's clearly at the heart of Apple's design ethos, and why the iPad has already picked up so many fans among the non-techie - fewer moving parts means fewer elements to go wrong.

That leaves rivals with two choices - emulate that simplicity or go completely...

By Steve Ranger

Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic. An award-winning journalist, Steve writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture, and regularly appears on TV and radio discussing tech issues. Previously he was th...