A dual-boot 10.1-inch tablet with Android 1.6 and Windows 7 will be offered by ViewSonic along with a seven-inch model. ViewSonic's ViewPad tablets will sell for $629 for the 10.1-inch and $479 for the seven-inch. Google has advised against Android for tablets, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs has jabbed at Samsung's Android-powered Galaxy Tab.
The tablet-computer war is heating up as Black Friday nears, with Samsung rolling out its Android-based Galaxy Tab on several wireless carriers next week and ViewSonic unveiling two new devices Monday -- including one that runs both Google 's Android and Microsoft 's Windows 7 Home Premium operating systems.
After its debut in Europe last month, T-Mobile will be the first in the U.S. to get the Tab, which is essentially a larger version of the Samsung Galaxy 5 phones available in variations on all four top wireless carriers. T-Mobile's price, beginning Nov. 10, will be $399 with a two year contract. Sprint Nextel will charge the same price, also with a two-year contract, beginning Nov. 14, while Verizon Wireless as of Nov. 11 will sell the Tab for $599 without a contract, although a data plan is available. Consumers can also put the Tab on their tab at Best Buy stores.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs, in an Oct. 18 earnings call, took a calculated jab at the Tab and others like it, saying, "The seven-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone, and too small to compete with an iPad." He also noted that Google was advising tablet makers that the current 2.2 version of Android is not well suited for tablets, and that was the reason given by Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha for his company's slow entry into the tablet market.
But Walnut, Calif.-based ViewSonic, best known for computer displays, evidently has no such reservations about Android as it unveiled seven-inch and 10.1-inch ViewPad tablets. But the larger model seems to be hedging bets by allowing users an option to boot up in Windows 7.
The smaller ViewPad, equipped for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3.5G data, will be available later this year for $479 and packs front and back cameras, although the front-facing camera is only 0.3 megapixels, compared to three megapixels on the back. It has a 800x480 WVGA LCD display and, ViewSonic says, it's the only seven-inch Android-powered tablet to feature Google's Mobile Services applications, which include Gmail, maps, picture-based searches, voice searches, and more.
The larger ViewPad has a 1024x600 LED backlit capacitive multi-touch screen, but only runs Android 1.6 rather than its sister's 2.2. It also has only one 1.3-megapixel camera. It will sell for $629 in the first quarter of next year. Distributors were not announced.
Leveraging our 20-year display heritage, these new ViewPad solutions provide users with anytime anywhere connectivity," said Jeff Volpe, vice president and general manager for ViewSonic Americas. "With access to the universe of Android apps, our new ViewPads are perfectly suited for enjoying digital entertainment and social media. Office productivity is also a snap with robust web-browsing functionality."
No iPad Threat Yet
"There is no shortage of media-tablet announcements this year, " said Jeff Orr, the principal mobile-devices analyst for ABI Research. "But there has been a lack of commercially available competitors to Apple's iPad introduced in April and the lesser-known vendors offering media-tablet products since mid-2009."
Orr said that because the form factor is still new, it remains to be seen whether businesses will take to them.
"The rumors of people ditching laptops and smartphones in favor a single converged device are exactly that -- rumors," Orr said. "Until more IT -friendly devices are available, enterprises are merely toying with the possibilities of media tablets. If anything, this examination is increasing consideration for tablet PCs to be reconsidered for industrial applications and kiosks."
"Dual-boot capabilities ... are not new," he added. "There are laptops and netbooks with this capability today, but typically suggest a very sophisticated user that wants to get the best from different OS platforms. Some models are available pre-installed with two operating systems, while users also have the ability to format their hard drives in this way."