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How a Google Tablet Could Beat Apple's iPad


While the Nexus One didn't make a dent, a tablet could be a smash.

When it comes to Google (GOOG), Steve Jobs is a cranky man. And no one would argue that he doesn't have his reasons.

Apple's (AAPL) ongoing tiff with the search giant stems from a multitude of reasons -- competing smartphone, browser wars, app rejection, upcoming operating system, etc. So while no one was shocked, plenty of people were amused when Jobs summed up Google's infamous mantra "Don't be evil" as, well, bovine excrement.

As to whether Jobs -- coming off a decidedly mixed response to his newly unveiled iPad -- was fully aware of the product that Google might have waiting in the wings is questionable. But now he's likely caught wind of it and has a more "descriptive" take on that mantra.

Back in November, Google showed off its upcoming Chrome OS to a somewhat interested audience. The largely browser-based system would rely more on cloud storage and the company's popular line of web apps rather than a fleet of desktop programs and a sizable hard drive. For those expecting groundbreaking innovations demonstrated with the flair of one of the company's harshest critics, Google's presentation was above average at best and lackluster at worst. While the Chrome OS showed promise, the system -- with all of its feature limitations and pared down capacity -- seemed a little wimpy. (See What to Expect from Google's Chrome OS.)

Enter the iPad two months later.

Like the Chrome OS, Apple's tablet device has suffered numerous complaints over its missing details, limited advancement, and a general lack of feasible application. But given the hype and grandeur of the unveiling, that dissatisfaction was delivered to and by a much larger audience. (See Apple Unveils the Sadly Underwhelming iPad.)

If anything, now would be the perfect time for a competitor -- perhaps a high-profile one -- to take that harsh criticism and use it as a guidebook to develop a tablet computer -- perhaps one with a web-geared OS -- that could trounce the iPad.

And wouldn't you know it? Looks like someone just might.

A couple days before Apple's conference last week, mock-ups of a Chrome OS-enabled tablet computer were posted on a Google developer's blog. By no means an official announcement that the Chrome OS will indeed appear on a tablet computer, the renderings were exciting depictions of what Google's open-source system could do for such a perfectly tailored device. Touchscreen keyboard, numerous web apps, data fully synced to the web, and so forth.

In another section, different specs and designs of Chrome are explored for different form factors -- laptop, desktop, netbook, and yes, tablets. If that wasn't enough, Google illustrated the tablet design in an animated video. The scale of the tablet might be slightly askew given the size of the animated user's hands, but look! Actual multitasking!

With its focus on web-based computing, a Chrome Tablet would already place it on par with the iPad. As long as Google fills in the glaring gaps left by Apple's flawed execution, it can be a major threat.

Apple defenders will naturally point to the Nexus One as proof of Google's inability to take out an Apple product, but the uphill battle might not be as steep this time. The iPhone -- almost fully realized in its initial design as a revolutionary device -- has years of development, a dedicated user base, and name recognition on its side. No one would claim that the iPad shares that level of acclaim. Many would assert it's the biggest misfire since the Apple TV.

In that sense, Google doesn't have as far to go to beat Apple at its game. And it also has a detailed guide on what not to do.

Last week, Apple was looking at Amazon (AMZN), Sony (SNE), Barnes & Noble (BKS), and their e-readers as the main competitors to the iPad. Today, Apple sees a new foe off on the horizon -- and it has a familiar face.
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