There’s the iPad and then there are tablets

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Apple(s aapl) invigorated the consumer tablet market with the January 2010 introduction of the iPad, but don’t call it a tablet. Research from Experian Hitwise shows the top 10 online searches for tablet don’t have either the words “Apple” or “iPad” in the list. Instead, various combinations of the word “tablet” with other manufacturer names comprise the list, indicating consumers believe there’s the Apple iPad and then there’s everything else when it comes to tablets.

So what are consumers searching for when researching tablets online? The four weeks ending May 28 yielded these results, per the Hitwise research:

  1. android tablet
  2. tablet pc
  3. tablet
  4. acer tablet
  5. tablet computer
  6. blackberry tablet
  7. coby tablet
  8. toshiba tablet
  9. viewsonic g tablet
  10. asus tablet

This indicates that much like its iPhone, Apple has succeeded in building iPad as a brand and less as a tablet computer. In fact, as soon as I started carrying around the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab in public, the most often asked question I received was: “Is that a small iPad?” It’s only now — after a few months of Google Android(s goog) tablet availability — that those questions have stopped.

Another interesting point jumped out when reviewing the list of search terms: Not a single one of them actually mentions the name of a specific tablet, telling me other tablet makers have work to do with their product recognition and marketing. Instead of searching for the Acer Iconia tablet (see our review here), for example, consumers search for a generic Acer tablet more often. The same goes for several other device manufacturers, including Research In Motion(s rimm).

Ironcially, RIM doesn’t make a tablet that runs on the BlackBerry operating system, but instead, it runs on QNX and is called the PlayBook. It’s great for RIM that BlackBerry is a popular search term, but not so good that the word “PlayBook” isn’t coming to consumers’ minds when thinking of RIM’s tablet, which despite some notable software shortcomings has much to like. Luckily, RIM named the device BlackBerry PlayBook to leverage its popular BlackBerry brand.

Perhaps the oddest bit from the search list is the second item, “tablet pc”. Microsoft (s msft) introduced Tablet PCs a decade ago. However, the computers, first with digital pens and later with touch screens, haven’t enjoyed nearly the success of Apple’s iPad. As a result, I’m wondering if the venerable “tablet PC” term means different things to different people because none of the Android tablets, nor the iPad, are devices I’d equate with a Tablet PC. Of course, the search term may be good news for Microsoft (s msft), given it recently showed off a touch-friendly version of Windows 8, which is sure to be used on future Tablet PCs running Windows.

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