by September 27, 2012 0 comments

The Indian market is flooded with tablets for our technologically savvy citizens, with prices starting from as low as Rs 4000 for certain Android tablets in the market. However, many consumers are unaware of the distinguishing features of each OS on a tablet. Choosing an iPad or an Android tablet can’t be based just on a whim, as there are many critical factors to consider. We explore each existing ecosystem, and clarify their advantages and disadvantages.

iOS (on the iPad series)

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The iPad has become ubiquitous with tablet computing, and we can’t fault Apple for pioneering the trend of the industry towards the same. One of the strongest pillars that sustain the iPad is the app market available on it. There are over 225,000 apps developed specifically for the iPad, and this thriving app ecosystem means that users of the iPad will have a myriad of apps to choose from, when compared to Android, BlackBerry or Windows devices. Another advantage of the iOS on a tablet is its integrability with other Apple devices. Apple provides a feature called iCloud with iOS 5, which can automatically sync all the music,videos and books purchased through iTune across to all of your iOS devices. Moreover, over-the-air updates on iOS are consistent across all devices, unlike on Android. So users can always be assured of getting their updates at the same time.

However, using the iPad is not just a bed of roses, as it has its frustrations. For starters, iOS does not offer Flash support (which is available on Android), and this means many websites with Flash videos can’t be loaded properly. Also, the App Store on the iPad is tightly controlled, and this means developers can’t introduce apps into the market without rigorous approval from Apple. Moreover, the fact that developers have to pay for a license to post apps to the market means that most of the apps are priced. For example, the popular game Angry Birds is free on Android, but is a paid app on iTunes. This may be very frustrating for users, who have already paid through the nose to purchase the iPad! However, that said, there is a noticable propencity of the users of iOS devices to buy paid apps as compared to other OS users.

Android (on Samsung Galaxy Tab, Asus Eee Pad, etc)

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While most of the Android apps available through Google Play work on Android tablets, many of them are not optimized to use on the larger display and better hardware of the tablets involved. The biggest headache facing developers is the number of variants of Android tablets in the market. With several manufacturers such as Samsung, Asus and Sony offering Android in different form factors, it is difficult for developers to make apps that can provide a uniform experience across all devices. Also, Samsung and Amazon have their own unique app stores, which host apps specifically made for their devices. This creates further confusion for developers, who have to adapt their apps for these app stores as well to reach a broader audience.

However, Android’s weakness is also it’s strength. Since it is an open-source system, manufacturers often tailor it to their own needs and designs. For example, Amazon runs its own custom design of Android on the Kindle Fire, while Samsung’s TouchWiz interface is prevalent on the tablets it ships. This offers a greater variety for consumers, who can aspire to a certain tablet and design, and personalize it in their own way, unlike the iPad which has a standard look and UI.

Windows (on Samsung Series 7 Slate, HP Slate 2, etc)

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Windows has been running on tablets for a long time, and are still optimal for the niche market of professionals seeking enterprise level productivity on a mobile device. This is something that can’t be compared with other systems, as Microsoft can offer optimized versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint to function on Windows tablets. Also, Windows tablets provide the familiar look and feel existing on desktops, and thus new tablets users will feel at home on a Windows tablet. For heavy enterprise usability, other systems can’t match Windows.

However, the major drawback of Windows is that it has a poor app ecosystem. Windows 7 tablets only offered touch-optimized apps, but the experience still doesn’t transition well onto a tablet. In that sense, iOS and Android is way ahead of the game. However, Windows enthusiasts should be optimistic with the forthcoming release of Windows 8 RT specifically for tablets. Windows 8 will have its own app store, which will offer apps specifically for touch-based devices. The Windows 8 SDK is available to developers, and if Windows 8 tablets start selling like hotcakes, we can expect a burgeoning of apps on the Windows 8 marketplace.

BlackBerry Tablet OS (on BlackBerry PlayBook)

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Research In Motion has developed its own tablet operating system for its entry into the market with the PlayBook. While the interface of the BlackBerry OS is rich and well-built, it still lacks serious power in the apps front. Initially, the BlackBerry Tablet OS was under serious fire because it failed to provide even basic productivity apps such as Email and Calendar apps.

While this has been fixed with recent updates, there is still lack of support for many apps. BlackBerry’s AppWorld is short of both Apple and Android stores, with Angry Birds selling for a whopping US $4.99 when we checked. While the PlayBook does support Android apps through a special launcher, only a small portion of the apps have been integrated into AppWorld, and a user has to sideload Android apps if he wants access to the majority of them. Another big loss for BlackBerry smartphone users is that the BBM has not found its way onto the tablet! Compared to the interoperability that iOS and Android devices provide, BlackBerry tablet OS falls short. In terms of productivity, BlackBerry tablet OS still offers features to edit several Microsoft Office files, and that can be useful in the hands of business-minded users. However, we can conclude that with intense competition in the tablet market at the moment, the BlackBerry Tablet OS is still lagging way behind its competitors.

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