Does Open Source Offer the Best Alternative For an iPad Killer?

While the world goes gaga over iPad, there is already a line forming of folks designing a better tablet. Will the iPad killer sport an open source base?

All that glitters may not be gold when it comes to tablet computing. Unlike the choke hold they have on MP3 players and the early jump they had in the smartphone market, there is already a formidable list of competitors lining up to battle Apple in the tablet category. The good news is that some of them are running open source.

I saw my first iPad in action this weekend while down in South Beach. A guy was sitting poolside near us working away on his shiny, sleek iPad. About 15 minutes later he had it covered with a towel and he was hammering away on his iPhone. I asked him what happened and he said "the iPad displayed a message that it was overheating and he should shut it down and play with it later." That along with no camera and no flash, plus Apple's notorious black box mentality lead me to believe that maybe there is room in the tablet category.

Today I saw some news from HP on their own product called Slate. It runs Flash, has SD memory and USB connections for more memory and peripherials. It has cameras both front and back and this YouTube video makes it look pretty darn sexy.

But Slate runs Windows and though it could be an iPad killer, is not the open source bomb I was looking for.

Do not give up hope though, there are other contenders lined up and some are pretty far along. The open source alternatives to iPad fall into two camps.  One camp has devices that are basically running smartphone OS's like Android and soon maybe a Symbian or MeeGo. The other camp runs traditional open source computing operating systems (read that as Linux) optimized for a touch screen system.

My personal feeling is that a smartphone system is going to provide a superior experience, but in the open source style, competition and variety will breed stronger competitors. Let the market decide.

Over on OpenSource.com there is a good article with some of the open source contenders. Two I wanted to highlight are European by design. One is the WePad. It is made in Germany and runs on Android. As a result you can run many of the Android Market apps as well as from its own WePad App Store. You can find out more info from their Facebook page as well. Below is a short YouTube showing what it looks like. There is no sound and it is just 45 seconds of shots of the device itself.

The other open source alternitive comes to us from Spain. It was developed at the University of Cordoba and runs a customized Linux OS optimized for the touch screen.  Below is a YouTube (again no real audio, just music this time) that shows what it looks like and has.

Now I am not saying that the iPad will disappear like the Apple Newton. I am sure Apple will address the heat problem and some of the other shortcomings that people are complaining about. Albeit on their own timeline. But there is a chance that the iPad becomes the missionary on bringing tablet computing to the masses. It could just be that one or both of these open source iPad killers become major players in this potentially huge market.

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