Apple boss Steve Jobs has fired a scathing broadside against rivals to the iPad and iPad 2 tablets. He branded Android, Samsung, HP, BlackBerry and Motorola as imitators to Apple's innovators, suggesting 2011 will be the "year of the copycats".
To the surprise of many, Apple's ailing chief took to the stage to announce the iPad 2 in San Francisco. The first half of the presentation was dominated by fevered lauding of the original iPad, of which Apple has sold 15 million in the past year. Jobs proudly called 2010 the "year of the iPad", and went on to speculate that this year would be filled by imitations.
Other manufacturers have certainly rushed to get in on the market created by the iPad, which has brought tablets squarely into the mainstream consumer market.
Google has created Android 3.0 Honeycomb, a tablet-focused version of the Android mobile operating system that will debut on the Motorola Xoom and a raft of other Honeycomb tablets. Samsung has unveiled the Samsung Galaxy Tab and iPad-challenging Galaxy Tab 10.1, HP has created the webOS HP TouchPad with Palm, and RIM has weighed in with the BlackBerry PlayBook. Few are yet on sale, however.
How do you like them Apples?
It's interesting that Jobs launched such a stinging attack on Apple's rivals. Part of Apple's mystique has always been its aloofness -- often taken for arrogance by detractors. Apple has always taken the high ground, virtually ignoring rivals, to create a premium feeling around its products.
It's that sense of superiority that allows Apple to present features familiar from other companies' products as if it's just invented them -- like copy and paste on the iPhone -- and stubbornly insist on carving its own path even if it means ignoring the industry standard. Only Apple could simply refuse to use Flash even though it's practically ubiquitous, or bring in a feature like Thunderbolt on the new MacBook Pro.
There's also been controversy over Jobs quoting a Samsung exec that sales of the Galaxy Tab had been "quite slow". Samsung claimed at the time of the initial interview that the real quote was "quite smooth", and it had been mistranslated from the original Korean. It's unusual for Apple to resort to that kind of petty point-scoring.
Feeling the heat?
So does the "copycat" jibe mean Apple is finally feeling the heat from its competitors? The Xoom, Tab and TouchPad are all bearing down on Apple with a raft of features the iPad just can't match: Flash support, built-in HDMI connections, USB ports, high-resolution cameras, memory-card slots, wireless syncing with phones... the list goes on.
On features, the iPad just can't compete, and with the big names honing their operating systems, Apple may be losing ground on its biggest strength: user experience.
Apple does still have one clear lead: apps. Jobs pointed out there are 65,000 apps for the iPad, claiming there are only 100 for Honeycomb. But Honeycomb has only been publically available for about a week, and the iPad has a year's headstart.
Is Apple feeling the heat? Tell us your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter or our Facebook wall. We launched a full-court press on the iPad 2 launch in London last night, so if you want more Apple tablet goodness take a look at our full iPad 2 preview, the official pictures, our first impressions and pictures, and the full story of the iPad 2 and iOS 4.3 launch.