I get it. I really do. This is CNET's annual "shit on whatever product Apple is about to release because it draws in controversy and readers" article, but I've got some time, so...
Which iPad rivals are catching up? How?
He first mentions the Kindle Fire, probably because it is at least doing pretty well in the "sales" column, particularly when compared against other Android tablets:
At first glance, the Fire's biggest advantage is price. It's hard to argue with a $200 tablet.
Outlets which reviewed the Kindle Fire didn't seem to have any trouble at all arguing with a $200 tablet.
It's definitely hard to profit off of a $200 tablet, though.
Sure, the specs aren't the greatest, and it feels sluggish at times, but it's not a bad experience for the price.
But it's totally catching up!
Also, that rave review comes one paragraph after Cheng mentioned how "hard" it was to argue with a $200 tablet.
He keeps using that word, but I'm not sure it means what he thinks it means.
Another key feature is the access to Amazon Prime and its streaming video service. Apple has iTunes, but it doesn't have its own dedicated service for streaming video for a low flat rate.
The iPad is a streaming wasteland.
The Kindle Fire also boasts its own custom Silk Browser, which is supposed to enable faster Web surfing through a cached architecture. It's debatable whether Silk is that much better.
It's more accurate to say that it's debatable whether Silk is even "as good as" rival browsers from Apple and Google, but it's true that Amazon, at least, claims it's way better.
Next, he mentions the Asus Transformer Prime:
But the Prime's best feature is its detachable keyboard, which makes it a virtual laptop.
I'd suggest that it's also why the Transformer Prime has been dead in the water: If people wanted virtual laptops, netbooks would have been popular sellers. I suspect that the last thing someone wants when they think about purchasing a tablet is something with training wheels.
People who have a laptop don't need another one, and people who don't have one probably don't need the complication of one.
Next, he talks about the Asus Padphone:
Okay, the Padfone may be more of a gimmick than anything else, but you have to hand it to Asus for going even bolder with its Transformer concept.
In other words: "I needed five tablets to justify my premise, so I went ahead and threw this one in there. I wouldn't buy it, you wouldn't buy it -- well, let's face it: no one is buying it -- but, um, yeah..."
Next up is the Samsung Galaxy Note:
Say what you will about the 5-inch Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is a tablet that makes sense.
What if I was going to say the Galaxy Note doesn't make much sense?
Mixed up the two Notes. I suppose the best thing I can say about the 10.1 is that I don't know enough about it to lodge specific criticisms.
Still. It has a stylus.
Also like many other competing tablets, it features a higher quality 2-megapixel front-facing camera, something the iPad 2 lacks. Hopefully, Apple addresses this issue, which has been a barrier to high-quality video chatting.
You know what else seems like a barrier to high-quality video chatting? A 5" screen. In fact, a 5" screen seems like a barrier to most things that you'd want out of a great tablet. It also seems like a barrier to most things you'd want out of a great phone. Somehow, here, two wrongs still make a wrong.
You know what would be a boon to high-quality video chatting and long-form reading?
A Retina Display.
Cheng seems a bit down on that idea, though. Maybe it'll draw in the Apple faithful, he predicts. Maybe.
It looks as though the Tab 10.1 was released a couple months before the expected launch of the next generation iPad with specs and performance that are, generally, comparable to a current generation iPad.
Totally catching up.
Last, and probably least, he talks about the Blackberry Playbook:
It's priced at $200 like the Kindle Fire, but that's more a result of market demand than an early intent to create a more affordable competitor.
It sure is, Roger. The Playbook started out at $499, then dropped to $299, and finally -- in some places -- to $199.
But they're totally catching up!
Of course, these tablets all have their share of weaknesses as well, but that doesn't take away from the fact these features are ones that iPad users would certainly appreciate, and indicate that gap between Apple and its rivals isn't as wide as most people think.
So, if only Apple would release a smaller tablet, with a stylus and a keyboard dock, people -- outside the Apple faithful, of course -- would really start snapping up iPads?
Why isn't it working for Apple's competitors?