Neofonie announced a new mobile tablet PC called the WePad in Berlin on Monday. The device holds great promise in Germany where the release has pre-empted Apple’s release of its iPad computer in that market. Neofonie’s WePad is faster than the Apple iPad, has a larger screen and features USB ports for external devices and a Webcam, features that were left off of the iPad.
= Not an iPad Killer =
Neofonie’s founder and director of manufacturing, Helmut Hoffer von Ankershoffen, told the press at the release announcement that the WePad is not intended to be an “iPad killer,” although some market analysts have used that nickname to describe it. Curiously, at the press conference announcing the product, Neofonie distributed tasty, juicy apples for reporters to munch on as they learned about the product. Google, another Apple competitor, has also revealed a potential iPad killer tablet, but details of that product are yet to be released.
= WePad Features =
The market finds notable strengths in the WePad product that will appeal to many users. For example, the 11.6” screen looks enormous compared to the Apple iPad that features a much smaller 9.7” display. The ability to add external USB devices like keyboards, external hard drives, memory sticks, scanners, etc. is expected to be a boon for the WePad, especially when compared with the hardened iPad platform.
WePad is powered by an Intel CPU and runs a Linux-based Android-like operating system that – unlike iPad – is compatible with Flash applications. The platform is an open source initiative, something that should appeal to users and developers alike. The WePad is expected to ship with an open source office productivity package pre-installed.
Another strong feature of WePad is that it operates independently from iTunes or other proprietary services. This means, for example, that music and video can be downloaded from any source and can be played with a variety of available players. Because of its open architecture, more applications should be available for the device at a price below the typical Apple iPad app.
Like the iPad, WePad comes with either 16 or 32 GB of storage and has two versions: a Wi-Fi model and one equipped for 3G. Also like the iPad, the primary interface for the device is its touch screen. Pricing is a bit higher for the WePad, however, with the base Wi-Fi version expected to debut at $600 USD (euro449), a full one hundred bucks costlier than the Apple device.
Like Apple’s iPad, the WePad will be manufactured in Asia, presumably China, although Neofonie has not specified the country of origin. As with the iPad, there’s no word yet whether child and slave labor will be used to produce the device. Some human rights groups highlighted human rights abuses on the part of companies manufacturing Apple’s iPhone.
= Will the WePad compete? =
While it looks like WePad has a leg up on iPad in markets like Germany where iPad has yet to appear, that really is not the case: WePad will not be available for purchase until the end of July (pre-ordering starts on April 27), while Apple is due to be released to the market by the end of April. The late arrival of WePad to the market, plus the demonstrable weakness of Linux –based mobile computing indicate that – in spite of its superior model – competing against iPad will prove to be a nearly impossible endeavor, so don’t return your iPad yet