No apps, no sale: iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom vs RIM Playbook vs HP TouchPad

UPDATE: Over on Quora we’ve been discussing the iPad vs. Motorola Xoom in far more detail than here. You might want to read that post there, to get a more nuanced view of what the competition is really like.

So, now that I’ve seen the iPad 2, see my short video above, or go and watch all the videos over on Apple’s website or view the pages of content poured into blogs over on Techmeme.

iPad 2 Launch Photos

We now know what the choice is:

1. Apple iPad 2. Has apps. 65,000 of them.
2. Motorola Xoom. Has no apps. Oh, sorry. 16. At least no apps designed for the large format. Designing an app that works on a smart phone isn’t the same as designing one that works on a large screen. Most of the apps I’ve “stretched” really suck compared to their iPad equivalents.
3. HP TouchPad. Has no apps. Heck, it isn’t even shipping yet.
4. RIM PlayBook. Has no apps. Heck, it isn’t even shipping yet.

No apps, no sale.

iPad 2 Launch Photos

It really is that simple.

OK, OK, I know some of you think hardware matters. It doesn’t, but if it did, Apple’s hardware is nicer designed. Just look at the back of the new iPad. All one piece. The Xoom is two separate pieces. Think that doesn’t matter? Look at the back of my Motorola. It looks like crap already and it’s only two weeks old. Plus, the on/off button is in a weird place. I keep hitting it when trying to read on it in bed.

iPad 1 vs iPad 2

The screen resolution? It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any apps. Yeah, Motorola has 20% more resolution. Pull up a web browser. Does it matter? Not really. I can’t see the difference other than the screen is a little wider form factor than the iPad’s. That’s nice, but will it sell units? No. Apps matter more.

The sound capabilities? Those don’t matter if you don’t have any apps.

The battery life? Well Apple is better here than the Xoom or other devices. Battery life matters more to me and many others than a slight screen resolution increase.

What about HP’s TouchPad? I like it a lot. It’s nicer designed than the Motorola Xoom. It should be, it was designed by a few people who used to work for Steve Jobs at Apple. If the HP were out nine months ago it would have been a great device to buy and compare to the iPad. Their OS and multitasking metaphor really is awesome, albeit might be a bit slower here and there (we’ll see when we actually get one). A few major problems: 1. It isn’t shipping. Probably won’t be until June. 2. It has no apps. No apps no sale.

Move on to the RIM PlayBook. It didn’t score with users as well as the Motorola Xoom and it doesn’t have Google and its Android ecosystem behind it. So, I can’t see anyway that it will come in higher than #3. This means that developers won’t develop apps for it. No apps, no sale.

Anyone else out there? No.

So, how is this next year going to play out? Google needs to hit it out of the park at its iO event this spring and needs to convince developers that Android’s Tablet strategy matters. Google can easily consolidate the #2 space and next year they can eat away at Apple’s app lead.

It’s sad, too. I really like the hardware that HP, RIM, and Motorola, amongst others, have done. I just can’t recommend you buy any of those others.

No apps, no sale.

iPad wins big time.

iPad 1 (left) vs iPad 2

Oh, and if you disagree with me and think specs and speeds matter more than apps, go check out Engadget’s comparison chart.

UPDATE: the keynote of Steve Jobs showing off the iPad from this morning is now live.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

353 thoughts on “No apps, no sale: iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom vs RIM Playbook vs HP TouchPad

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  2. People!! Persons! Debate all you want , reality is, iPad2 will sell millions more than xoom, adn that is a fact, sorry…

  3. I found this thread looking for actual reviews of products. For this kind of back and forth “my toy is better than your toy” I can go to my kids pre-school. I do not like Apple, only because I am invested already in PC technology. That sounds dumb, sure, but you tech-heads out there honestly think you are the only people buying this stuff. I need a device that I can use for business purposes nad Apple is notorious for not playing well with others and I do not like the idea of being chained to iStore/Tunes for everything. Again, just a guy that needs to buy a device. Fact: Android surpassed Apple and Symbian in the phone market. Get over it! Who cares, I have to base buying/business decisions on practical matters, not what “looks cool” or what a bunch of gen y, z mop-top socialites think is hip. I need a platform that is easy to get into and manipulate to produce business applications and uses. Sorry, unless you are developing FOR Apple, then my choice has to be the platform that is more OPEN.

    So write a real review and stop whining about how cool your iPad looks.

    1. Dude, you are so off base it isn’t even funny. Let’s just go and look at all the iPads being used in business. Salesforce.com’s CEO is seeing it and is carrying one. You sound more religious than I’ll ever be. If you want to have a decent conversation about my reviews, then that’s cool. But you sure don’t sound like someone interested in a conversation, only validation for your worldview that Apple sucks. Sorry, I won’t provide that.

      By the way, Android hasn’t surpassed Apple. Maybe in market share, but not in any other credible measure. And market share is NOT what matters to many of us. If it did we’d all be using Nokia phones, which STILL sell more than Android.

  4. couldnt agree more. hardware wise, it sounds sexier. but i bought the xoom myself and returned it yesterday. I hate to sound like a broken record here, but there are very few apps now, i dont want to wait forever for apps. its just not ideal.

    as far as the person who says the xoom has a superior browsing experience, im not convinced. there are tons of sites that come up in the mobile view – why would a tablet show a mobile view on a website?! even when there were workarounds to view the sites they dont always work properly – facebook standard view in the browser is glitchy as hell. I cant wait to see how the browser performs with flash slowing it down!

    also, in the 13 days that i owned the xoom, i had dozens of “force closes” on everything from gmail to the browser and many other apps. Also had to shut down at least 3-4 times due to freezes. that is unacceptable for an $800 device or $600 device.

    I plan on giving the ipad2 a shot on friday.

  5. Robert,

    I don’t agree – it’s not all about the apps. I have 5, maybe 6 apps I use on my iPhone on a regular basis beyond the base apps provided. That may be less or more than some, but key apps for me are Email & Web – both native to the phone. 65,000 apps? It’s like cable TV, lots of channels, hardly anything on.

    What defines a tablet now is not hardware – I agree wholeheartedly with you there. But it’s also not Apps alone. What defines a tablet now is the OS, and more importantly how productive it lets the user be at what they need to do, whether it be work or play.

    Apple launched a tablet that is thinner & faster… and that’s it. No OS overhaul. Does this make it a horrible tablet? No way, it’ll sell truckloads, but people that want to be productive for work purposes (such as myself) are left with an OS that in essence is just task-switching.

    An example of my use model? I need to have multiple emails able to be open at any time. Copying, pasting, responding, writing… on an iPad I can run multiple apps, but each of those apps (except for Safari) can only do one thing at a time, including email. Need to open another email while in the middle of one, save to draft (and hope it works).

    Watch the announcement for the HP Touchpad. Email app. Multiple emails. Copy, Paste, respond, write. This is productive, and something Apple should have fixed long ago – and killer for me.

    So for people like myself, the HP Touchpad will let me be more productive in the most used applications I run each day – Email, Web, Instant Messaging, Social Media. Get enough people like me and app developers start writing apps, and then the game changes.

    I for one don’t care who “wins” at this – I just want a work tool that keeps me productive and doubles as a play thing when I want time off (or need to entertain the kids). At this stage a revamped piece of hardware, no matter how “nice and shiny” it is, is not enough – it’s in fact just more of the same…

    Regards,
    Shane.

    1. Oh, geez, I wish I could spend an hour explaining how wrong you are, but I can’t tonight. There are thousands of apps that help people GET WORK DONE that aren’t on the other platforms. Yet.

      1. Robert,

        Not sure how I can be “wrong”, just as I didn’t say you were wrong (I just disagreed). Yes there are apps that make people more productive – I use many of them. I never claimed otherwise. Nor did I say apps aren’t important.

        Base apps are important too, and more importantly how the OS allows them (and 3rd party apps) to function. iOS needs a revamp ASAP.

        Apps can always be written for a device or OS, but they can’t easily fix OS issues or limitations.

        Regards,
        Shane.

  6. When the ipad came out, it shipped with 33,000 aps, and yes, the majority of them were very usfull, unlike the comm with it’s only 20 ready apps, I think it was pathetic for android to rush a tablet out like that. They shoul have waited

  7. i could care less about 65,000 apps of which 64,950 are totally useless. i’ll take a superior browser, better multi-tasking and strong google integration over 65K crapps anyday. that said, it’s tough to go with the xoom over the ipad 2 given that they’re the same price. if moto sold the wi-fi xoom for $399 – $429 it would be a no brainer, but for now, the ipad 2 wins… until android tabs cost 30% less.

    1. You are totally deluded if you think 99% of the apps are totally useless but that is great. Shows why Motorola will sell +some+ devices.

  8. The Xoom looks to be an excellent device with huge potential, the Honeycomb platform does that for it. Unfortunately, the Xoom isn’t finished yet having been rushed out to market and having a microsSD card slot which doesnt work and a program where you have to send your Xoom back to the factory for 4G, who wants to do that??? The iPad 2 currently has 65,000 apps which gives you much better choice and when its jailbroken is one of the most customizable platforms you can buy.

    The HP Touchpad, in my opinion has the best OS with WebOS and Android looks great. iOS has its potential unlocked by Jailbreak. QNX however, hasnt been proven and looks to be a HP Copycat.

    The Hardware of these machines don’t matter if their OS and experience is awful. Currently the Android experience is very limited due to the number of apps, as it is with webOS and QNX. Here in the UK, we have no need for 4G as carriers over here wont implement it till around 2014 so therefore 4G does not matter. HDMI is only really needed for movies and is not a big factor in some people’s eyes. However, the omission of either a USB or SD Card slot is understandable. A computer is for people like that, the Camera Connection Kit is available if you really need it, I wouldnt ever use the SD card slot or the USB.

    The tie into iTunes and the Appstore is also better, even though Apple’s rules tend to be too strict, I ahve never countered an app being full of bugs or even reports of viruses in the appstore, unfortunately the Android Market has had those problems. iTunes is also great for managing your media and apps and again Android does not have this. Then again, lets see what the Playbook and Touchpad pull out the bag first eh?

    Pricing also is awful for the Xoom who wants a 2 year contract??? No one really, it just makes the device cheaper but think about the technology in 1 years time when you are tied into a contract with a Xoom, you’ll be left wishing you didnt have a contract. The iPad is much better in the sense that the one off fee is cheaper in most senses and you dont have any contract obligations only monthly so you can pulll out whenever.

  9. The iPad2 is all I can wish for for this year! I love it. I love how Apple improved the once majestic iPad. I just love how the specs were upgraded.

  10. The apps will be there. Any good and important ones that is. Talk about a fanboy. You do realize the aluminum is painted to look like that on the apple don’t you? No multitasking is a big fail for apple. My Xoom will multitask circles around the ipad and that is invaluable to me. LTE wont hurt either.

  11. Five years ago I would have agreed with you. Lack of Flash would have been a problem. However, in those five years Flash itself has increasingly become a problem. I haven’t been on a website for a long time where I couldn’t see things I wanted to see on an iPad/iPhone because of lack of Flash. I’ve been on lots of websites on my laptop where I see things I _don’t_ want to see because of Flash — mainly adverts, but also those annoying BBC videos which launch up in the middle of the office when you’ve clicked onto what looks like a useful page. I can watch the BBC videos on their app or iPlayer, but, actually, I never do. I go to the web because I want the information quicker than it takes to watch a news clip.
    Add to that the number of times I’m on a Flash supported site such as ESPN, and the Flash is only being used to support advertisements, but it still manages to crash the site and make me exit the browser and reopen it.

  12. Your comparing subsidized plans against unsubsidized plans, and your calling Robert out on bad faith. Your price points for Xoom only get that low with a 2 year Verizon contract. There are currently no subsidized iPads, because even if you purchase the 3G model, you only pay for service when you need it. It’s month to month and can be turned off for periods of non-use.

  13. Hey EricE, I actually do have an account with instapaper…. it’s usually just what works.. getting stuff into PDF form just tends to be more portable for me NOW.

    So many great services out there…. but I tend to:

    1. Go to website
    2. Use the “Readability” Chrome extension to strip the page
    3. Print to PDF and either drop it in my Dropbox folder or place on on my iPad , email it or print it (dependingon what mood I’m in at the time..)..

  14. The reaching goes both ways which I don’t think really surprises anyone given the subject.

    I didn’t say anything remotely like cloud, cloud, cloud. In fact I see as much of that posted by Apple proponents as I do Android. Wresndad first stated it here in this thread.

    What I wonder is are you saying that you wouldn’t like a built in usb &/or microSD slot? Would you not buy one if it had those features? Is that an outrageous or unthinkable request given present day hardware? Do you think it logical to expect people to only be able to utilize the cloud when sometimes the cloud isn’t available? I don’t.

      1. Interesting thought although that would impact a very small part of the iPad demographic. I certainly would’t want major device providers to make me sacrifice for a minority of purchasers especially when a software solution could be added to just kill those ports/features for those who have that requirement. Good point though that I had not thought of. So can you not have a smart phone that has micro sd either?

        1. Any non-encrypted storage is forbidden. So you can have a smart phone that has an SD slot, but I’d there’s any way of getting data onto it then you can’t actually use a card with it. Unless it’s encrypted, of course, but I’ve not seen that feature on a smart phone.

          Martin Turner
          07753 683 337

  15. My point is I cannot go to a 1 day conference with my DSLR, shoot pics and post them as the sessions occur. That is one way “I” would like to use a tablet. The pictures cannot leave the camera via the cloud. If I have to take a laptop, then having the tablet is moot.

    I didn’t say anything about juggling or consolidating cards, I didn’t ask for you to speculate on my workflow, comment on what I want to do or the sanity of it.

    Please separate what you like/will do/reasons for purchases from what others may or may not like or want to do. I buy things for my reasons not yours thank you very much.

    Does anyone know if there is a CF reader that will work with this camera kit USB interface? I would be very happy if there was.

    1. Actually the sole reason I got the camera kit was to do just exactly that — be able to pull the pictures off the Nikon D3 and get them straight to newspapers. It works, and it’s beautiful. You’ll also notice that Capture One Pro now supports the iPad and the iPhone via WiFi to view images caught tethered.

      1. WHAT? I didn’t even think to go check Capture One because I thought they only did the iPod versions. That would be beyond awesome and is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you so much for mentioning that.

  16. Motorola, RIM, and HP have three issues, I think. 1) No Apps, 2) they will forever being playing catch-up on the hardware, and 3) developer-unfriendly ecosystems, leading back to #1.

  17. I don’t have any of these tablets, but I have the Archos70 running pre-Honeycomb Android.

    Apps which I use all the time that take advantage of the screen size (at least in terms of giving you more text-area, not in redesigning the interface, but I haven’t found that to be a need for these apps):
    * ThinkingSpace – mindmap app (synchs to a GogleAppEngine space, so I can share with my NexusOne, or (less conveniently) FreeMind on my MacBook)
    * gReader – synchs with GoogleReader for offline use
    * FbReader for ePub ebooks
    * MobilePdfViewer (hate PDF, but can’t escape them)

    (Big annoyance: can’t use the Android market (without some hackery which I’m hoping to avoid), so can’t access lots of Android apps like Twitter client, gmail, etc.)

    http://webseitz.fluxent.com/wiki/ArChos70

  18. No, you can use multiple apps at once, that is quite common. For example, it is very common to surf the Web while you listen to music while you download a movie or podcast.

  19. iPad shipped with 500 full-size 3rd party apps and within a week there were 1000. Within 3 months there were 10,000. It also had 250,000 mini apps from day one.

    > what is keeping [apps] from OSes other than iOS?

    Almost all of the world’s full size client apps are written in C. iOS apps are also written in C. It’s the only mobile platform with C apps. And iOS has the world’s best application store by far. From the world class developer tools to the money that is deposited in your bank account it is very easy to build, deploy, and monetize a decent app.

    Android and BlackBerry apps are written in Java. Almost none of the world’s full size client apps are written in Java. So apps for Android and BlackBerry tablets have to be written entirely from scratch, which takes years instead of the months it takes to port an app from for example PlayStation to iOS. And Android has the world’s worst application store, with rampant malware, piracy, copyright infringement, fragmentation, and other issues that cause it to have revenues that are less than Nokia’s store and RIM’s store.

    It’s night and day, really. Apple is putting on a PC class software show, and the other mobiles are putting on a phone class software show.

  20. There is no way to pretend XOOM is cheaper than iPad. It is not. Give it up. The average selling price of XOOM is $799 and the average selling price of iPad is $625. And iPad starts at $499. XOOM is 60% more.

    Also, the iPad data plans are cheaper, and they are month to month, no commitment, no contract. Give it up.

  21. I think you made pretty good points.It’s pretty obvious now that Apple seems to win big time partially due to the incompetence of its rivals.They create products intended primarily to beat the iPad in terms of features but rarely do they care about the user experience and the advantage of a healthy ecosystem that Apple has slowly and successfully created around its tablet.Add to that the competitors are too lazy to deliver their products in time(hello,HP,RIM!).
    Apple added cameras this time but intentionally left camera flash to be introduced in later versions.That’s how they would sell the iPad 3,iPad 4,right? They know the market better than anyone else and will likely set the direction for the tablet industry for the next few years.

  22. Apple is going to be the only one with apps for a long, long time, because iPad is a native C/C++/Objective-C platform, which is what all of the world’s client apps are written in. Mac apps, Windows apps, Unix apps, PlayStation apps, Xbox apps … they are all C. If you want to move an app from one of those platforms to iPad, you can copy/paste 90% of it, and the rest is very straightforward, just interface work. That is why we see these sophisticated apps on iPad: the apps all have PC or game console heritage. They just had to be ported, not rewritten. Nobody else has C apps on a mobile but Apple. The other mobiles are essentially allergic to most of the world’s client app code. They are offering baby app platforms that have already failed on the PC: Java, AIR, FlashPlayer, Silverlight. To move an app to one of those platforms, you have to rewrite it completely from scratch. You don’t even know if that can be done in some cases. After almost 20 years of Java, there is still hardly any client-side Java code in the world, and Android bets its app platform on turning this around. Not going to happen. AIR? Cough. FlashPlayer? 2005 called and wants its video player back. Silverlight? Great name.

    Until somebody gets real and builds another mobile C platform, Apple is going to own tablets. Totally own it year after year, because people are not buying iPads per se, they are buying the powerful apps. They are willing to pay for apps that are more powerful than commodity Web apps, and only Apple is offering them. The killer app on iPad is App Store.

    1. Hi,

      I found what you’ve written interesting, but not 100% correct as you haven’t referenced WebOS.

      Check this link:
      http://developer.palm.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2034

      WebOS supports native C/C++ in the PDK, and the tools available support easy migration of iOS applications (Web or Native) to the WebOS environment. Angry Birds is a perfect example of porting from iOS to WebOS – see here:

      http://pdnblog.palm.com/2010/08/interviewing-the-master-eagle-of-angry-birds-as-he-publishes-the-game-to-webos/

      Let’s wait and see how the HP Touchpad and their new phones go when they finally hit market.

      Regards,
      Shane.

  23. Did you read this article? iPad has 65,000 apps, XOOM has 16. That is the only stat that matters.

  24. Android Honeycomb is buggy, very true. That’s why all manufacturers did not release their tablets yet. Motorola wanted to be the first, and released the Xoom with all the bugs and without Flash. Their choice, let’s see if people will remember it more as a buggy device or more as something that will be good in few months.

    iPad on the other hand is well tested and functional, that’s true.

    But when the first Android phones came out I heard the same arguments: no apps. Today there are many available apps that satisfy everyone. True, they are still less than iPhone, but how many apps do we really use? Most of the market (on both platforms) is crap.

    Give developers time, I am sure that within a few months all the necessary tablet-optimized apps will be there for Honeycomb as well as there are for iPad, then we can talk more.

    I quote you on the importance of apps: I don’t care of Apple’s cute design (HTC is very cute too). And price comparation was not correct too: HTC Flyer Wi-Fi only is coming out at €499, same as the cheapest iPad, but with twice the memory (32GB). And LG G-Slate is rumored to be pretty cheap as well. Android is not only Motorola…

    Android SDK have been available for a week only, so apps are not ready yet. Let’s talk again in a few months.

    1. The key app comparison is the quality and the categories. There are whole categories of apps on iOS that do not exist on Android, and iOS apps have better quality. They are native C apps, not Java.

      It is going to take more than a few months for the first Java-based PC app platform ever created to spring up for the handful of Motorola XOOM that have been sold. Where is that code going to come from? Who is going to create a Java Excel/Numbers or a Java GarageBand?

      iPad has GPS.

      If you want to manually manage files on your iPad, you install Air Sharing or another similar app. Air Sharing appears as a Wi-Fi file server on your Mac or PC, and you can copy files on and off all you like. It’s like a USB disk but with no cable. Within Air Sharing you can play music or movies, read PDF or other documents, zip and unzip files, email files, FTP files, etc. etc. Of course you can do whatever you like with the original files on your PC once you have copied them into Air Sharing.

      You can use iTunes Gift Cards if you don’t want to use your credit card.

    2. “Plus iPad has no GPS”.

      Yes it does. At least, if it doesn’t, then the ‘Find my iPad app’ is working by magic, and the way it follows the Google maps as you walk or drive is something transcendent.

        1. True, my bad. I had tested only the Wi-Fi version and GPS was not present. How stupid to put the GPS module only on the 3G version… I don’t understand the reasons behind this choice!

          We’ve been discussing in the past on other places that the Wi-Fi only version can be the good choice for a tablet (no matter if iOS, Android or else) since it avoids the necessity of a second data plan. Connection can always be done tethering on a smartphone.

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