The recent Apple iPad announcement has been all over the news in the past week, and people are speculating about how certain features will be implemented and speculating about how the competition will respond.
In general, "open alternatives will continue to serve as competition and counterbalance to closed technology and strategy," according to Jay Lyman, an open source analyst at The 451 Group. In an interview with LinuxInsider, he goes on to say this.
"We typically see faster development in open source, so I would not be surprised to see an open source response, or an existing effort gain attention and traction, particularly if iPad is as successful as the iPhone."
"If Android or Moblin or Ubuntu Netbook Remix or another open source alternative can serve as a viable option for many hardware, wireless, other software, advertising and other companies -- as well as developers -- it may be able to generate traction and winning devices and/or business models for tablets."
John Dragoon, Novell's Chief Marketing Officer, also weighed in on potential open source competition to the iPad. Dragoon quotes an IDC analyst Brett Waldman as saying that for “…Linux to gain market share in the newly revitalized tablet market, it will have to learn the lessons of Apple and go after it with a mobile UI, like the ones found on Google’s Android or the Moblin project.” Dragoon sees applications as being the key to a viable solution:
"There’s been tremendous improvement in the last twelve months alone on user interfaces (see Android and Moblin). We must continue to win the hearts and minds of developers and independent software vendors so that Linux has an equally compelling applications story. Novell’s SUSE Studio and recently announced SUSE Appliance Toolkit are squarely aimed at helping solve this application issue."
"I believe Linux is the ideal operating system for creating and delivering the 'Platform Specific User Experience'."
I agree that the applications are going to be an important part of the success of any tablet device, but the market for tablets is still an emerging one. While tablets have been around for many, many years, they have never really seen broad market adoption. One of Apple's strengths is in driving broad market success for what were niche markets, and they've done this most recently with the iPod and iPhone by taking niche products and building them for the non-technical masses. I suspect that we'll see a similar shift in the tablet market, and now is the time for open source solutions to step in and take advantage of this anticipated growth.