Indian company shows off impressive iPad competitor built with Google’s Android OS

Notion Ink’s Adam, an Android-based iPad competitor

I’m indebted to friends in India – and to the Technoholik technology blog of Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan of the Economic Times there, for this sneak preview of what some are already hailing as “The iPad Killer”.

It’s a classic “David and Goliath” story. Tiny startup, Notion Ink of Hyderabad, enters the ring this week against the Mighty Apple, when it showcases its “Adam” Android-based tablet at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Although when David is using an operating system developed by Google, the odds don’t seem quite so sharply stacked against it.

The Technoholik website has lots of pictures of the new device, plus video interviews with the Notion Ink founders. It’s an interesting device, which uses the low-power PixelQi color display developed for the One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC). The transflective display is said to allow the Adam 16 hours of battery life – and 160 with the backlight turned off.

The Notion Ink founders announced that the device will ship in the USA in June or July, priced between $327 and $800 (there are two screen options: one PixelQi, one LCD…)

The Adam touch screen

There’s no question that this is the tablet the geeks will love. Flash support. Integrated videocam. Open operating system. Multi-tasking. Firefox and Chrome browsers. Plenty of them will write applications for this device.

Of course, that’s not the market at which Apple is aiming with the iPad. It’s unashamedly a consumer device, building on the phenomenal success of the iPhone.

There are two open issues which will decide whether the Adam can really mount a challenge against Apple in this space. The first is User Interface. Apple is unquestionably the master of easy-to-learn, easy-to-use UI. And it has decades of experience. I’d expect Apple to win this one hands-down.

The second is marketing power. Apple has one of the best brands in the business, if not the best. It has a user base which is loyal, bordering on fanatic (with quite a few who crossed that border a long time ago…) And, of course, it has its own chain of hugely-popular Apple stores.

On the other hand, it’s pretty obvious that Google will put its weight behind any device using its Android OS, and is bound to go head-to-toe with Apple here as well as in mobile phones.

It’s going to be interesting. Competition is great!

I certainly hope Notion Ink has some measure of success. India has some of the smartest programmers on the planet, and it’s about time some Indian companies emerged as global players in the device market.

Technoholik’s iPad v. Adam spec comparison


21 thoughts on “Indian company shows off impressive iPad competitor built with Google’s Android OS

  1. Ronald Pottol

    This is much more what I am interested in, in grayscale mode, the screen should be amazing, and it ought to be far more open than anything Apple will ship.I've been waiting for a Pixel Qi (commercializing the tech from the OLPC XO screen) screen equipped machine.

  2. Anonymous

    $327? Laughable. They'll be lucky if they build it at double that cost. And the volume that they manage to create will be too low to satisfy any supply chain.This device is just a pipe dream.

  3. asymtote

    We will undoubtedly see a lot of iPad competitors over the coming months, all with impressive data sheets and all at lower price points but I predict that, like the iPod competitors, they will all suck initially and by the time they get it right (like the Zune HD) the market will have coalesced around the iPad.

  4. Bill Hill

    @ asymtote:I agree with you. Apple has a huge advantage in any such "battle" – they're complete, consummate experts at UI because they've been doing it so well for so long.Coming out the gate with 140,000 iPhone apps, a well-established online store and a chain of retail stores to show off and sell your devices sure doesn't hurt either:)

  5. Anonymous

    I think it is funny that American geeks who hate all thing Indian when it comes to tech are going to rely on them do defeat an American company.I bet this company gets bought out in 6 months by google.Interesting that 2 out of 3 OS in this device won't work for e-books.Let alone publishers coming to google.So why haven't you made a post about Microsoft 7 Series and their no UI taken from 60 film title sequences.

  6. Anonymous

    of course not. I was just making an observation from experience of slashdot or redditor any other tech blog on topics like IP, outsourcing, programmers, etc.Even animation folks were crying about outsourcing jobs to india even when Reliance just had rescued Dreamworks. I guess they don't even know what is Reliance. Not to talk about 500 years of pillaging.

  7. Bill Hill

    I think what's happened in India is one of the best developments in the world over the past couple of centuries.It's wonderful to see how technology has allowed a new economy to develop there. Yes, it started with outsourcing of jobs from the USA and other developed countries. But it was only a matter of time before homegrown innovation occurred. Microsoft's Indian research team is doing some great work, for example.The rapid growth is of course causing its own problems, cost-of-living-increases for those who aren't on the "technology train", for example. But at least there's an increasingly positive future possible…

  8. Bill Hill

    @ the anonymous poster who said pretty categorically that $327 was a laughably unrealistic price for the Adam, and claimed it would end up costing double.The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative – which uses the same screen – was aimed at producing a laptop costing less than $100. They never quite got there – I think they got down to $180.The OLPC website says today: "For $199, you can give a laptop to a child in the developing world."It's not totally laughable. And even if they hit the $499 price tag of the lowest-end iPad, for that price you'd almost certainly get a lot more functionality.I still think they have major obstacles to overcome to be successful. But I don't think price is necessarily one of them.

  9. asymtote

    Actually where I think Apple's real advantage lies is that they think about the system as a whole (whether that system is a computer, a media player or a phone) and refuse to compromise that system for the sake of a feature. For instance they won't allow background tasks to run on the iPhone because they know doing so would kill the battery life for an inconsequential gain. Similarly they are prepared to invest in creating their own ARM-based CPUs because they know they can improve the user experience by doing so.With the Windows Phone 7 Series announcement at yesterdays MWC Microsoft showed some signs that they are starting to understand this too. The WinMob7 OS looks like a modern smartphone (and I like that the typographic centric design of the Zune was carried forward) however the most interesting part of that presentation to me was how they're setting a much higher bar for hardware compatibility. If I heard right I think that will include specifying a particular Qualcomm chipset, which if true will go a long way to ensuring a more consistent user experience across the family of devices. There are still plenty of ways they can screw up but it's definitely a good start.

  10. Bill Hill

    I agree about Apple's "systemic" view. Although I think they start by defining the consumer experience first, then design the system to deliver completely on that experience, pretty much out of the box (no assembly required).The Microsoft WinMo7 phones do look pretty good. However, it's late to be finally entering a market with a decent contender, when you've alienated a lot of people who've been disappointed with your previous offerings, time and time again – and there's even a good percentage of your own (young) staff using your competitor's products.Will I be tempted to buy a WM7 phone instead of an iPhone? Probably not. If I'm already an iPhone or iPod user, almost certainly not. Microsoft has come from behind many times in the past. Excel, Word, Windows itself are great examples. So you can never rule them out entirely.However, in the past they usually started getting it right by version 3 (OK, 3.1 in the case of Windows – 3.0 was hopeless), – not 7…

  11. asymtote

    It's going to be interesting with WinMo7. I'm sure Microsoft is thinking that with 170M smartphones being sold last year and no real killer app on the iPhone, other than its UI, they can come from behind and capture significant market share.Sure, they've been at it a long while but nobody outside the geek world really understands that. It took the Blackberry to open the world's eyes to the possibility of smartphones and Apple to create a compelling consumer device. The biggest risk for Microsoft that I see are the hardware and mobile operator partners who, quite frankly, have so far done a terrible job at creating a desirable integrated device. Tightly specifying the hardware specs and allowing only a certain level of MO customization goes a long way to mitigating this risk though.

  12. asotir

    One point that helps the iPad, relevant to your note that Apple will win the UI battle 'hands down': when developing for the iPhone, as John Gruber noted, a dev must consider touch first and foremost.With Android OS covering phones with and without hardware keyboards, it's possible to develop an app that doesn't work so well with touch alone.There's also something else that confuses me, that google is trying to restrict Android to devices smaller than the Notion Ink Adam.I've been lusting for a PixelQi screen for a long time. The Tegra CPU/GPU combo the Adam uses also far outshines the iPad GPU and (rumored) single-core Cortex A8 that go into the A4 SOC Apple will use.One more point on this is the App Store. Apple is just killing itself by fomenting so much hatred against its iPhone family with such dictatorial, whimisical, contradictory policies on what program I can use on my iPhone.

  13. Bill Hill

    Well said, Mike!I'm half-inclined to zap anonymous comments unless they're clearly informed contributions by people who need to not be identified (perhaps because of where they work). If you're just mouthing off and won't sign your name to what you're saying, maybe you're not worth the attention.A blog is not a democracy.

  14. Bill Hill

    Well said, Mike!I'm half-inclined to zap anonymous comments unless they're clearly informed contributions by people who need to not be identified (perhaps because of where they work). If you're just mouthing off and won't sign your name to what you're saying, maybe you're not worth the attention.A blog is not a democracy.


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