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Apple iPad vs. RIM Playbook vs. Motorola Xoom vs. Dell Streak 7

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The smaller the device, the more tethering makes sense to me, because I have no desire to pay for multiple data plans. Both the Streak 7 and the Xoom provide tethering for up to 5 devices, but the smaller Streak may be more useful, because its small size makes carrying it with another device less of a problem. Still I personally prefer this feature in a smartphone, because I’ll be carrying that anyway, and it too would have a redundant data plan. Given RIM products typically have this feature, and Apple’s new iPhone on Verizon allows it I see this as an important but not lasting or critical advantage.

DLNA support

Officially, only the Xoom has DLNA Support built in, but the Skifta application runs on the Streak 7 and not only provides DLNA support, but strong DLNA functionality. This application, created by Qualcomm, is free right now and it allows you to use your tablet to control all of your DLNA compliant devices. Late last year, this spec actually started working, and there is something cool about managing your content from your tablet for you TV and sound systems in your home. Skifta is already being used on the Android 3.0 beta with success, so it should also work with the Xoom when it ships.

Operating system

Everyone is all over the map here, with the oldest OS being Apple’s, followed by the Dell Streak which uses the current smartphone version of Android 2.2, then the new Blackberry Tablet OS, and finally the Xoom, with the soon-to-be-released Android 3.0 for tablets. The two to watch are likely Android 3.0 and iOS, due to popularity and focus on the device, but on a sub-10-inch screen the Android 2.2 platform appears to work fine. What this really speaks to is application support, however, and here Apple continues to have a lead with Google a close second.

Application support

The latest counts I have suggest that Blackberry has 4,000 applications, many of which likely don’t look too good on the larger screen. Android has 200,000, but many have not yet been optimized for Android 3.0 yet, and iOS on the iPad. On total numbers and application quality, I give Apple a strong edge here, but folks only seem to buy a few applications on their iPad. You may be surprised to find the ones you want on both the Apple and Google platform offerings. RIM, however, just isn’t as widely supported.

Flash support

As you would expect, this is everyone but Apple. The iPad’s lack of Flash support can be a problem on Flash-optimized websites, and for viewing some videos on the web. It is more of an annoyance than anything else, but if you find yourself hitting a Flash wall painfully, it could force you to consider a non-Apple product. There was a time on smartphones when no one could support Flash. This has changed and it does continue to make Apple odd man out. I’m not expecting this to be corrected either with the iPad 2.

Cameras and quality

The first iPad is missing a camera, but we expect the iPad 2 to have a 5-megapixel camera on the back and a 3.2-megapixel on the front. This is similar to the Playbook. Next is the Xoom with a 5-megapixel on the back and a 2-megapixel on the front, and then the Streak with a 5-megapixel on the back and a 1.3-megapixel on the front. For video conferencing, you don’t need a lot of resolution and the tendency is to want to keep the quality of the stream low so you don’t blow out your data plan (especially your foreign roaming charges). In terms of recording video, the Playbook does a whopping 1080p, creating huge data files (I’m sure you can dial it down) and the Streak 7 and Xoom shoot 720p.

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