The Android Juggernaut

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The Android Juggernaut

Although it has taken longer than Google would have liked, Android is now starting to catch on in the tablet space. Consumers are increasingly finding that Android-based platforms are worth trying out, and the iPad, in turn, is being negatively affected. Luckily for Apple, that negative impact has been relatively slight so far. But if the iPad 3 launches next year, the Android effect on sales could be bigger than some folks want to admit.

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The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Is a Nice Alternative

All around the world, Apple is facing off with Samsung in courtrooms, arguing that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 violates its iPad patents. For its part, Samsung denies those claims. Regardless, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a fine alternative to the iPad 2 and could very well challenge the iPad 3. After all, Samsung's option has 4G connectivity, a big, 10.1-inch display and an advanced operating system designed for tablets in "Honeycomb." The iPad 3 won't be all that much different, which might hurt initial sales of the device.

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How Different Can Its Components Be?

The issue for Apple is that it can't easily differentiate its iPad 3. Sure, the device will be the only product with an Apple logo and iOS, but aside from that, it'll be quite similar to the competition. It'll have a big display, likely a dual- or quad-core processor, dual cameras, and a similar design to all other slates in the market. Over the past year, such similarity hasn't really hurt Apple. But will it next year when Android is more popular and it's facing many more worthwhile competitors? It's certainly possible.

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Do Customers Really Need a New iPad Each Year?

Some consumers are struggling with the idea of buying an iPad each year. There are some out there who bought both the iPad and iPad 2. There are still others who bought only one version of the device and have not bought another. Much of Apple's business relies upon consumers regularly buying new versions of the same Apple device. They do that with the iPod and the iPhone. But will they do it with the iPad? Apple certainly hopes so. But considering tablets are expensive and the economy isn't doing all that well, it might not get what it hopes for.

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The iPhone 5 Could Hurt It

Speculation abounds that Apple will launch the iPhone 5 this fall. By doing so, the company could potentially hurt iPad 3 sales. After all, if one group of rumors, which suggests the iPad 3 will launch in October, is true, how can Apple get people to buy both of its mobile devices? if the iPad 3 launches in, say, March or April, will that be enough time for folks who bought the iPhone 5 to opt for the iPad 3? In a better economic environment, sure. But right now, there's no way to know. Greater distance between the launches of both devices might be a good idea right now.

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Consumers Are Looking for Bigger Displays

So far, the latest rumors surrounding the iPad 3 suggest Apple will not offer a bigger display. In fact, the company might include its standard, 9.7-inch option, alongside a 7-inch version for those who want to be more mobile. The only issue is, bigger screen sizes are more appealing to customers. Once again, the iPad 3 could be trumped by devices featuring 10.1-inch screens. Consumers are looking for bigger displays. If Apple doesn't offer that, its iPad 3 could actually experience slower sales.

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Apple Has Made No Commitment to 4G

There is some speculation that Apple will bring 4G to the iPad 3. However, so far, Apple has been standoffish with the high-speed technology, complaining that it has yet to be fully rolled out around the U.S. and that it brings along with it some design compromises that Apple doesn't want to make. But if the iPad 3 doesn't come with 4G, it could be in for trouble. The future of the mobile space relies upon 4G. Apple, a company that prides itself on its forward-thinking, must acknowledge that.

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Price Crunch?

When the HP TouchPad was discontinued, the company decided to get rid of its inventory by cutting the price of the cheapest version of the device down to $99. Soon after, a sales bonanza commenced, causing the device to sell out and HP to promise another run of the devices. That success has prompted some in the tablet community to speculate that better pricing against the iPad could be the ticket to success. In the coming months, expect many more tablets to be priced far more affordable than the iPad. And in the process, Apple, which has always been loath to reduce pricing, could find its device priced much higher than the competitors' options. That pricing discrepancy might become an issue for some tablet buyers.

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Who Knows What the Patent Picture Will Look Like?

As of this writing, a host of companies are embroiled in bitter (and expensive) patent disputes, including Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Google. Over the next several months, judges across the world will rule on those disputes. Depending on how things go, the tablet space could look much different in that time. Whether that will help or hurt Apple, however, remains to be seen. But it could cause some trouble by the time Apple launches iPad 3.

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The Google-Motorola ThreatA key component in Google's decision to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion is patents, since the search giant needs to bolster its patent portfolio. But it also has quite a bit to do with Apple. Right now, Google isn't a hardware provider in the tablet space, which means it can't control all aspects of products, like Apple. But with Motorola in tow, it can. In the short term, that might not mean much. But by the beginning of next year when the iPad 3 could launch, expect the device to be facing off with a serious Motorola (and Google) competitor.

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