Jan. 6, 2011 at 2:20 PM ET
In the coming months, T-Mobile will be pushing out a 10-inch 4G tablet by LG, called the G-Slate. This will be a direct competitor to Verizon's Motorola Xoom, the Sprint-exclusive 4G BlackBerry PlayBook, and of course Apple's iPad (and forthcoming iPad 2).
But before that arrives, T-Mobile will launch the Dell Streak 7 on its 4G network. Though that tablet is smaller at 7 inches, and only runs Android 2.2, it will make use of T-Mobile's faster network, one that today they announced would be updated to hit "theoretical" peaks of 42 megabits per second.
The Streak, out in various 3G flavors, will be a lot more spry on a 4G network when browsing the Web, and great for streaming video from T-Mobile TV, but it's clearly a stop-gap.
The real tablet news is the G-Slate. Like the Xoom, it's a 10 incher that runs Google's official tablet platform, Android 3.0 Honeycomb. This is important because, as our own Alex Johnson explained this morning, any Android tablet not running Honeycomb will be rendered second class very soon. This includes the Samsung Galaxy Tab that's currently sold by T-Mobile, as well as the upcoming Dell Streak 7.
The "4G" bit is important here too: While the Xoom will launch on Verizon's somewhat sluggish 3G network, and will be "upgradeable" to 4G (a potentially complicated thing), T-Mobile's G-Slate will come ready for the carrier's faster HSPA+ network right out of the gate. The network is quite fast, in my real-world experience, though I don't concur with the study that T-Mobile reported calling it the fastest, as the study left out 4G networks from Sprint and AT&T.
Regardless, the take-home point is that T-Mobile is already marketing, and others like AT&T and Verizon are, as they say, "playing catch-up." Especially now that T-Mobile has updated its network to 42Mbps.
(Speaking of that 42Mbps network, to take advantage of it on your laptop, T-Mobile will be selling a Rocket 4G 3.0 USB modem in a few months. If you're in the market now, and eyeing the Rocket 4G 2.0, you may want to wait.)
So the biggest question for the real iPad challengers is ... when?
As you can see in the top image — where G-Slates are held by the CEOs of LG and T-Mobile — we didn't actually see working product of the Honeycomb tablet. Honeycomb itself is barely presentable at the show. What we've seen are pre-filmed videos and very basic screens on the actual devices.
Given Motorola's apparent support from Google, the Xoom will be first. That means G-Slate will be a follower. But will it be a fast follower or more delayed? Since we don't even know the Xoom's arrival date, it's very hard to say.