When we did the first version of this chart heading into the 2009 holiday sales season, four contenders — including the unexpected Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) Nook — were set to crowd the instant-download e-reader field that Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) had to itself for the last two years. Within weeks it already had changed: the iRex missed its 2009 ship date, PlasticLogic released more info on the Que, Amazon kept fine tuning the Kindle, and more e-readers flooded the zone at CES.
Then, the landscape tilted again Wednesday with the beyond-hyped unveiling of the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iPad, the tablet designed to be a better e-reader within a multipurpose media approach. Sure, some of the other devices offer the ability to listen to MP3 music and Kindle users can surf some elementary web waves. But Apple is the only one claiming to have a device that is as good an e-reader as it is a video player, music center or internet portal. (It’s also the only one where you can still use the platform for other e-readers: both Kindle and Barnes & Noble have iPhone e-book apps and are expected to be on the iPad.)
So how does the iPad stack up against its more single-minded competition? We can’t say yet how it really compares to reading a novel on a Kindle, textbooks on a Kindle DX or business pdfs on a Que. What we can do is lay out the specs and features side by side. (Click on on that link or the image for full-size version.) We’ve limited the comparison to the highest-profile devices that include 3G access and or Wi-Fi as an option. By size, the main competition is the Kindle DX and the upcoming PlasticLogic Que. In the paperback-size division, it’s the Kindle, the Nook and the Sony (NYSE: SNE) Daily Edition.
Update: Many thanks to those who posted or sent in suggestions about how to make this better; we’ve been incorporating many of them in real time. Some suggestions are a matter of interpretation so may not be reflected in this weekend’s updates but we will take them into consideration for future charts.