Now that the fervor around Apple’s infamous pad launch has settled, others are ready to launch back with competing products and form factors in the space between smartphones and laptops.  The New York Times ran an article featuring a brief overview of the products soon to be hitting the market (and no, the Courier is not one of them.)  Companies like HP, Dell, and Google are mentioned in some detail.  Read on past the break for more.

HP seems to be the closest to release, touting their development time at around 5 years.  According to the article HP has been waiting for lower pricing on their feature packed Slate.  HP’s slab of touch screen goodness is expected to be closer to laptop functionality with features like a camera, actual USB ports, and full web browsing with Flash and other plugins.  Although this would seem to address the issues of the iPad, tablets that have used desktop versions of Windows Operating Systems have traditionally failed.  Window’s design towards keyboard and mouse interaction often don’t translate well into touch screen use (something Microsoft themselves are just realizing with WinPho 7.)  So while the functionality and ability to create content vs. just consume it may be present, the speed and ease of accessing the content may turn into an issue that has plagued tablets before.

Google is also making rumbles of a Chrome OS or Android based tablet to send into the market.  Not much has been released other than a few passing comments about content distribution from Eric Schmidt at a party, however Google seems to be just as invested in the hardware as pushing their Android platform onto other devices, as HP is said to be producing an Android tablet alongside their larger Windows 7 offering. This seems to be the largest area of opportunity in the tablet market at the moment.  The touch-oriented nature of Android along with the extended functionality lacking from Apples product will allows users to easily produce content on the go instead of consume it endlessly like crack in downtown Atlanta, except the crack would be iTunes, your drug dealer – Steve Jobs, and the downward spiral of your life as an addict… well that’s the same either way.

On the other side of these early competitors are companies like Dell, Lenovo, Acer, and even Nokia.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Asus jump in the mix soon as well, with all their experience in (and creating) the netbook market with the eeePC series.  Many are viewing the recent market interest in tablets as something to replace netbooks (mostly due to Steve Jobs trying desperately to defend the genetically mutated iTouch he’s been pawning off on everyone.)

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