After months of speculation, Apple finally announced (well, sort of) that it will be showing off the next generation of the iPad by inviting media to a Wednesday event in San Francisco.
Apple still is indisputably at the top of the tablet market, but the next iPad (which most people are calling the iPad 3) faces a host of competitors that are clamoring after their own little niches. There is no tablet out there that surpasses the iPad 2 on every level, but here are some that -- in one way or another -- distinguish themselves from the iPad.
* Kindle Fire: Amazon's 7-inch tablet has a price advantage over the iPad, starting at $199 instead of Apple's $499, as well as access to Amazon's huge retail store.
* Nook Tablet: Great for reading, the Nook Tablet's screen is easier on the eyes than the iPad and, with its 7-inch form factor, easier to carry around.
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* Acer Iconia A500: This tablet has more memory than the iPad 2 and more ports, making it good for people who want to use their tablets in conjunction with other gadgets.
* Asus Transformer: The Transformer line comes with a full QWERTY keyboard, making it much easier to type on for longeremails or short memos.
* Asus Slider: Another tablet that has a keyboard, the slider has a cool form factor that's different than your average "screen surrounded by black plastic."
* Galaxy Note: Not quite a phone, not quite a tablet, this 5-inch hybrid comes with a stylus and is good for people who want their tablet more portable than the iPad but don't want to squint to read on a smartphone.
* Galaxy Note 10.1: With all the stylus features of its smaller sibling, the Galaxy Note 10.1 has HSPA+ connectivity, which means 4G data speeds.
* Pantech Element: Three words: Waterproof. 4G. $300.
* Galaxy Tab 10.1: This near iPad clone has been out for some time now but is a tad bit lighter and, of course, supports Flash.
* BlackBerry PlayBook: The PlayBook's smaller form factor and integration with BlackBerry smartphones recommend this tablet to its very specific niche.
* Sony S: Sony's got great design chops, and this tablet's folded magazine design fits well in hand, better than Apple's super-sleek slate.
* Sony P: Sony's latest tablet has not one but two 5.5-inch screens, making it quite portable and, if nothing else, different.
* T-Mobile Springboard: Super-cheap and with 4G capability, this tablet is good for people who are on the go but don't fear the two-year contract commitment.
* Motorola Xyboard: The update to the Xoom, the Xyboard beats the iPad 2 in the camera department, with an 8MP sensor.