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Creative, Next & Others : Are Android Tablets Suffering From The Netbook Syndrome?

Take any Android tablet on the market, like the Creative Labs ZiiO or the Viewsonic Viewpad 7 and you're likely to find more or less the same hardware and software specification partly because most tablets are manufactured by a handful of ODM/OEM companies in Taiwan.

You're very likely to find an ARM processor, Android OS (from v1.6 to v2.1, rarely v2.2), either 256MB or 512MB RAM, between 0GB and 16GB onboard storage, a 7-inch (resistive or capacitive) touchscreen with a WVGA or WSVGA resolution, Wi-Fi, a webcam and a rear camera.

This reminds us what we saw when netbooks became a must have gadget over the last couple of years; there were very little differentiating factors between competing brands and it ended up diluting the form factor as they all ended up competing on price rather than on features.

The difference between now and then is that Apple single handedly launched the tablet revolution whereas back then Asus was the company that popularised Netbooks and Apple had yet to introduce a laptop with a netbook form factor (it now has the 11.6-inch Mac Book Air).

But this time, it is much worse; Netbooks were regimented by a number of rules set by Microsoft and Intel when it comes to the hardware. These restrictions do not apply to tablets and yet, manufacturers "fear" to innovate and be different from one another.

Which left us with the glut of cloned tablets about to flood the market ahead of Christmas. We wrote that Steve Jobs was wrong to say that 7-inch tablets are bound to become a dead species.

Well actually, at the current rate, ARMDroid tablets might be "shooting themselves in the foot" by fragmenting the tablet market even more allowing Apple to dominate without any real competition.

Add in the very real issue of OS fragmentation and the absence of Android Marketplace on most tablets as it stands and we're left with the impression that the first wave of tablets is bound to not to perform to expectations.

What can be done; well, big tier-1 companies like Sony Ericsson, Panasonic, Sony, LG, Philips and others need to launch their own Android-based tablets before the market is swamped with rebadged devices with poor user experience.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.