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by JB Burke

Q. I have a PC at home, and I am in the market for a tablet, and can't decide between iPad and an Android tablet. The iPad costs more, and is very popular, and there are a great many Android tablets to choose from. How do I decide?

A. You've already pinned down one criteria – the iPad is generally more expensive than the Android tablets of equivalent capability. The main reason for that is that Apple is the sole purveyor of iPad tablets. No one else can (legally) produce tablets using Apple's proprietary Operating System (OS) called iOS. Whereas, Google owns and distributes, for free, the Android OS to anyone who wants to build a tablet using it. So since tablet builders don't have to pay for the Android OS, and there are many manufacturers of Android tablets at reasonable prices.

Another difference is that Apple is very strict about what software you can put on your iPad. All apps are vetted by Apple, and distributed through the Apple App Store. On the other hand, while Google distributes apps (currently about 1.3 million of them) through the Google Play Store, there are other sources as well. For instance, Amazon, a major seller of tablets of all stripes, has its own Amazon App Store. As of June, 2014, there were about 240,000 apps in that App Store. Samsung also has an app store aimed at users of their smartphones and tablets.

A third choice exists as well. Windows is making inroads into the tablet market, and Microsoft has recently taken an interesting step to increase their market share. Microsoft has reduced the price of Widows 8.1 to $0.00 for tablets with screens at 9 inches or less. Tablets of that size are a big part of the tablet market, and there are already Windows 8.1 tablets for sale in the low $100's and above as a result. For example, Toshiba Encore tablets start at $104.99 (search Toshiba windows 8.1 tablets in Google) for details. Since you are already a Windows user on your PC, this may be an alternative you should look into.

Published: Courier 11/16/14 - Page 4D