Short answer: No, not if “beat the Apple iPad” means “outsell the Apple iPad.” You already know that. And Toshiba’s already said the Toshiba Libretto W100 tablet is going to be a limited-run, premium-priced, concept prototype, so it looks like they’re not even going to try.
But will Toshiba’s upcoming dual-screen, multitouch clamshell tablet be better than an iPad for you? Let’s go over what we know about it!
The good news
The previews make its selling points clear; it’s got two flipping touchscreens! Literally. It’s got a clamshell shape, just like a netbook, so you can flip it open and use both screens at once. You can tap a button to make an app span both screens, for twice the viewing real estate when browsing a web page, and you can also set the whole “bottom” screen to act like a regular keyboard.
The Toshiba Libretto W100 tablet will have a webcam, unlike the current Apple iPad model (although you know they’re going to give it one later, now that the iPhone 4 uses FaceTime). It will have an SD card reader built-in, instead of your having to buy one separately. It will have a USB port, so you’ll be able to plug in things like a mouse or a printer and not just an external keyboard. Finally, it will be running the full version of Windows 7, instead of Android or iOS. Can you say Flash? Multitasking? Microsoft Office?
The bad news
The first item of bad news is the same as the last item of good news. The Toshiba Libretto runs Microsoft Windows! Can you say malware? Viruses? Long startup times? How about your iPad-esque tablet giving you the same kinds of problems that Windows has all your computing life?
Not only will the Toshiba Libretto W100 have only a 1.2 gigahertz processor — making it slower than even a netbook — it’ll be the kind of computer where that fact is relevant, because the flipping-out tablet is so flipping complicated! Do you know how many gigahertz the iPad’s processor has? Does it even matter?
The iPad can’t run Microsoft Office, but how long will you have to wait for Microsoft Office to load on the W100? (Especially compared to the custom-made, iPad version of iWork.) How slow will Flash games and videos be? What Windows apps will you actually want to use on the thing, and how many people are going to design new Windows apps to take advantage of the Libretto’s features? Toshiba will probably add a few things, and some Windows apps are already designed for multitouch. But the iPad has thousands and thousands of multitouch apps, and they run lightning-fast and are actually designed for the hardware.
Putting things in perspective
The Apple iPad is like a really big, really powerful iPod Touch. It integrates with the iTunes store for apps, music and movies, and almost everything about it works simply and seamlessly. It’s already out now, and you can buy a low-end iPad for not much more than the price of a high-end iPod.
The Toshiba Libretto W100 isn’t for sale yet. When it’s put up for sale, it’ll cost twice as much as a low-end iPad and will basically be an underpowered netbook, with a screen you can’t touch-type on and a processor too slow to run most Windows apps.
Some people will probably think that it’s cool anyway! (I know I do.) And some people will want the features it has that the iPad doesn’t. But with only tentative support coming from Toshiba, and a form factor that’s radically different from most existing machines, the Toshiba Libretto seems very unlikely to catch on … with customers, or with app developers. And apps are the whole point of having a tablet, aside from the Internet.
Dual-screen plus touch-screen isn’t a bad idea. Just look at the Nintendo DS! The DS has advantages that the Toshiba Libretto W100 won’t have, though … and I don’t just mean the full support of a first-tier electronics company, which has loads of clout with developers. I mean it was designed to do one thing very well, instead of a whole slew of things poorly. And it was priced to match.
Will you have the money (reportedly $1,099) to buy a Libretto? If so, will you want to? Either way, have fun … with whatever tablet, netbook, or portable computer you use!