The iPad is due to encounter quite a bit more competition this year. Big players like Dell, HP, RIM, and Motorola are lining up rival devices. We might even see some of them before the iPad's rumored successor breaks cover.
Trying to make sense of all the different features available from the various tablet alternatives can be more than a little challenging. Fortunately, the folks over at Skatter Tech have put together a handy infographic comparing the BlackBerry PlayBook, Dell Streak, and Motorola Xoom to the venerable iPad. All the relevant details are covered, including the size of the devices, the resolution of their displays, expected battery life, camera resolutions, and so on. The graphic makes a good case for the Xoom, which runs Google's "Honeycomb" Android 3.0 operating system and features a 10" screen with a 1280x800 display resolution. If you'd prefer a smaller device, the PlayBook looks rather intriguing, too.
Of course, neither of those two tablets is available just yet. The Playbook is due to arrive in the first quarter of this year and is expected to cost less than $500. Engadget was tipped off that the Xoom will launch on February 17 with a hefty $700 price tag. That might sound like a lot given that the iPad starts at $500, but the entry-level model has just 16GB of storage and is limited to Wi-Fi connectivity. Matching the Xoom's 32GB of internal storage and built-in 3G brings the iPad up to $729.
The fact that we're comparing tablets that aren't even available for sale to one that's been out for nearly a year underscores just how far ahead Apple is in this market. There's little doubt in my mind that the second-generation iPad will be an improvement over the existing design. However, it seems unlikely the new device will sprout conveniences like USB and HDMI ports, a memory card reader, or support for Adobe Flash. As good as the next iPad will surely be, the alternatives might be more competitive than one might expect.