New Android 'Pads' Ready to Challenge Apple

A slew of Android-based tablets are ready to challenge Apple's ascendant iPad. The challengers will compete on one or both of two fronts: they will run Flash and most of them will be cheaper than the $499 entry level Apple tablet.

Digital photo frame maker Pandigital announced a 7-inch color screen eReader, with Barnes & Noble in tow. Barnes & Noble also offers its own eReader: Nook. Another company, Taiwan-based Via Technologies said that it will come out with Android tablets in the $100 to $150 price range later this year. 

Beyond these two there are probably a dozen other companies at least that will release Android tablets. Most of them are unlikely to measure up to the iPad; however if they're cheap enough or otherwise "good enough" they will likely succeed. 

More broadly tablets are here to stay. Apple has validated the market. Apple's myriad competitors, who were burned by the iPod and later the iPhone, are much quicker now to copy and release their own clone devices. Apple no longer has the 1-3 year lead time it once did. 

How will tablet sales affect netbooks and mobile phones? That remains to be seen, although there are suggestions that netbook sales are being affected already by the iPad and the impending flood of tablets.

Amazon, one of the two original eReader makers, is now trying to develop its own iPad-like color-screen device. The ultimate tablet market will probably be bifurcated: low-end, inexpensive devices used primarily as eReaders but which also allow Internet access and more full-featured devices that are used for a wide array of functions -- represented by the iPad.