It was all so uncomplicated at the end of 2010. There was Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad, and that was it.
Sure, there were other tablets out there — a legion of cheap, barely functioning handhelds struggling to run Google‘s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android or Microsoft‘s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows operating systems — but with the exception of Samsung‘s (PINK:SSNLF) Galaxy Tab, none had a chance to compete. It’s not as though the Galaxy Tab was a success, either. While Samsung touted more than 2 million in sales by the end of December 2010, reports said that 16% of those Galaxy Tabs were returned to retailers.
The market got crowded fast. By the time Apple introduced its second model of iPad in March 2011, every technology company and their uncles were announcing tablets. Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) already had released its new Xoom; Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) was promising its new PlayBook within a few months; Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) was set to deliver its WebOS-powered TouchPad; Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) was cooking up Windows and Android tablets; and a slightly older, slightly smarter Samsung was plotting to revamp its Galaxy Tab.
Even with the new variety, the tablet market looks much the same here at the end of 2011. There’s the iPad and then there’s everything else. However, for the first time, Apple’s armor is starting to show chinks, and there’s space for competitors to strike against the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. So who in the tablet market will still be standing in 2012? Here’s a look: