ipadWhen Apple released the original iPad last year, it was pretty much alone in the marketplace.  There were rumors of numerous tablets coming in the future, but none that really stood a chance against the marketing muscle of the infamous maker of such cool gadgets as the iPod and iPhone.  With the iPad 2 all but a certainty for being announced tomorrow, one has to wonder how it might fare in a far busier market that is about to get a whole lot more crowded.

While the iPad stood virtually alone last year, this year is going to be a much different story with the Android Honeycomb-based tablets buzzing around it like the proverbial bees.  And let us not forget to mention that you will also have RIM, the maker of the popular BlackBerry line of smartphones, entering the arena with its PlayBook tablet.  All told, there were over 100 tablets displayed at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Jan. of this year, and that means there’s going to be a lot of cuts into Apple’s market share no matter how you look at it.

The problem for Apple is that it launched this new generation of tablets, and companies quickly raced to not only get their devices to market, but to make sure they surpassed the iPad in a multitude of ways.  One of the biggest complaints about the iPad was a lack of cameras, and now you can’t throw a rock without hitting a tablet with out one on the back for picture taking and one on the front for video conferencing.  Multi-tasking did eventually come to the iPad, albeit more as a form of app switching, so most tablets are now working towards a true solution.  And of course, the Xoom launched with a dual-core processor, upping the arms race when it comes to hardware.

Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White said today, “Assuming a new iPad is unveiled at this event, we believe Apple must make a convincing case for why the iPad 2 is better than the plethora of competitors coming to market, while at the same time persuading iPad 1 buyers to upgrade to iPad 2.”  However, Mr. White wasn’t all doom and gloom when it came to the iPad 2 when he stated, “we still believe the combination of the Apple brand, economies of scale and the company’s powerful ecosystem are reasons enough for Apple to outpace its competitors.”  And therein resides the truth of what will happen with the iPad 2.

Yes, there is going to be a lose of market share due to the other tablets coming out, but there is one thing the iPad 2 has that no one else does, and that’s the name “Apple” attached to it.  Say what you will about Apple, love them or hate them, the name carries an insane amount of brand recognition in the world, and it is almost always associated with “high quality products”.  If your average consumer is standing in front of a display filled with tablets, they are going to immediately be drawn to the name “Apple” because they know it, and, consequently,  the name “iPad” because it has become synonymous with the form factor.

There is no doubt that Apple will have a tougher time this year with the iPad 2, but I highly doubt you can count it as down and out.  It would take one tablet to come out that bested all the other comers that stood out from the pack to take on the iPad, but thus far all we’ve had is devices that always seem to have some major failing whether it be price or a lack of features.  Until a company can come out with a tablet that fires on all of the cylinders at the same time, it’s going to be tough for any other tablet to surpass the iPad as the one to rule the market.

What do you think?  Is Apple facing a much tougher road this year?

[via Tech Trader Daily]