I suspect that lots of non-Apple tablets will be sold in 2011—many millions, in fact. I suspect some will match iPad's 10-inch screen, and of those, some might match or beat iPad's price.
Most will have non-glare screens, most or all will have video, some will promise to brush your teeth and clean the leaves out of your gutters, and all will contend that they're just as good or better than the iPad.
But they won't be.
Maybe in a year or two or three, after some monumentally expensive and incredibly innovative development efforts, Google or RIM or HP or Microsoft will come out with a tablet that outpaces Apple on performance, design, elegance, blissful experience, price, and buzz factor.
Of course, we don't currently have any tangible reasons to expect that to happen, but unbridled faith and optimism is one of the things that separates humans from the crustaceans so let's not rule out those possibilities.
But if I were a CIO and I had to walk into next week's board meeting and present my strategic plan for 2011, I wouldn't stake a lot of credibility on the possibility that one of those companies (only one of which currently even has a tablet!) will out-innovate, out-design, and out-buzz Apple.
And if I were that CIO, I'd base my argument on these 10 points:
1) Apple's App Store currently offers more than 40,000 iPad-specific applications.
2) Apple's App Store currently features a total of more than 300,000 apps, most of which work on the iPad. And all those competitors, as the eminent business-technology strategist MC Hammer has said, "Can't touch that."
3) Apple's very own China Syndrome: Three months ago, Apple reported that its new, state-of-the-art stores in Shangai and Beijing generated first-day sales that "exceeded all previous store openings. Our four China stores are our four highest-traffic stores in the world and are among our highest-performing."
4) For business customers, Apple has opened "briefing rooms" in five of its stores around the globe: London, Minneapolis, Paris, Shanghai, and Philadelphia, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. And while this effort won't exactly bowl you over, the websites for each of those locations offers business customers the opportunity to meet with representatives of Apple's new "Business Team" (click here and then click on the link next to the "Briefing Room" icon).
As humble a beginning as this might be, for the traditionally corporate account-averse folks at Apple, it's a huge tangible step at recognizing that the company has a phenomenally big opportunity to complement its consumer business without distorting it.
5) And just how big might that enterprise opportunity be? Well, here's some context on that from Steve Jobs himself (for a more-extensive analysis of this and other related comments from Jobs, please see Global CIO: Apple Storms The Enterprise As iPad And iPhone Surge):