It's no secret that the iPad has been king of the tablet world since its launch. It was light-years ahead of the older generation of tablet computers and had free reign over customers looking to fill the void between their smartphone and laptop. The launch of the Galaxy Tab was a success in the eyes of Samsung, but the iPad easily blows the Tab's sales out of the water. So will it remain king next year with the bombardment of Android tablets, a mysterious webOS tablet from HPalm, and the PlayBook?
My first round with an iPad didn't have a pretty outcome. I spent two weeks with it and sold it. I hated the thing. If I were to answer that question right after that experience, I would have blatantly said no. Not having multi-tasking and being so restricted as to what I could do with it made me feel like I had been duped. But that was because I bought it for the wrong reason. I wanted to replace having to carry my laptop everyday. I use my laptop for some pretty labor intensive work at times, so that obviously wasn't going to work.
Luckily, I didn't write Apple off, I gave the iPad another go. This time I put iOS version 4.2 on it as soon as I got it and that answered most of my problems. I've said time and time again that typing on the iPad is one of the worst experiences you can have with the device. Everything else you do on it is smooth and offers a very pleasing experience, but typing especially is a pain. I bought a Zaggmate and I fell in love with my iPad. Having a removable Bluetooth keyboard at my leisure that seconds as a stand for the device was exactly what I needed, but I digress.
Being an Apple product, the iPad has one serious advantage, accessories. People love to buy accessories and there are never any shortages for Apple-made devices. If there is something that you're lacking with the iPad, check for accessories and you may find the add-on to make it perfect in your eyes. This in combination with excellent hardware, hundreds of thousands of applications, and an impossibly simple user experience, dethroning the iPad will be quite the feat for any one tablet, or even a slew of different tablets and OSes.
Android tablets will definitely put a dent in iPad sales and steal part of its spotlight. But this is no different than the iPhone situation, even though they're both capable of doing the same things and Android is actually a little more functional in a few ways (thanks to being open source), people still flock to iOS devices. The quality of the hardware is and will remain unmatched; Apple always sets the bar very high when it comes to the body of their devices. The plastic casing of the Galaxy Tab was a bit unattractive, but I still loved it. However, most wouldn't like paying $500 for a device mostly composed of cheap plastic; that's what you would expect of a sub-$300 tablet.
The one thing that will send quite a few users in the direction of webOS and Android though, is the proprietary aspect of the iPad and how closed off it is. People love Android for being open source and having the ability to do essentially whatever they want with the device. Mind you, given the proper tools and know-how, you can accomplish many of the same things on the iPad. But the proprietary port on the iPad, no USB port, no expandable memory, no Flash support, and the fact that these things will likely remain the same for some time will also hurt sales. I know there are rumors of some of these things being added but let's keep in mind this is Apple, and Jobs doesn't normally listen to what we want, he tells us what we want. It all depends on what the man in the black turtleneck thinks is important.
I don't say this much, but Jobs is right about the iPad and so is Mark Zuckerberg, it isn't a computer but it isn't exactly mobile either. People will inevitably expect to have computer functionality out of the iPad with USB ports and full web browser support. But one has to remember that it is just a much larger, less portable iPod Touch and quite a bit of functionality is sacrificed for portability.
Also, a lot of people will favor the 7-inch tablet -- I know I do. It's a more portable form factor and the display is still large enough to comfortably browse the web and watch videos from. The iPad is more of a couch tablet, but many have no problem carrying it everywhere they go.
In the end, it all comes down to preference and how many upcoming devices are received. If all of the Android tablets fizzle as quickly as the Galaxy Tab, the iPad will have no problem remaining King of the Hill. But if the XOOM, which looks very enticing if I might add, gains a lot of traction along with other Android tablets, the iPad could be looking to share that title. Despite whatever hits the market and based on how Apple products trend -- regardless of what they have or don't have -- I expect the second generation iPad to hold its own through 2011.