IHS iSuppli has done a mega tear-down analysis of eight major tablets, including Apple’s iPad and iPad 2, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, Motorola’s Xoom, Hewlett-Packard’s TouchPad and Asus’s Eee Pad. As nearly all non-Apple tablets sport beefier innards, how come the lower-specc’d iPad is still ruling the tablet space nearly eighteen months after Steve Jobs announced the original model back in January of last year? It’s because Apple controls the whole widget, IHS senior analyst Wayne Lam explains:

Since Apple controls both the operating system and hardware design of the iPad, it is able to attain design efficiencies that other tablet manufacturers cannot. These efficiencies become obvious in areas like the memory and the battery, where Apple maintains advantages in cost, space savings and performance compared with every competitor in the business.

He also tells CNET that the biggest drawback for the Android camp is the lack of critical mass and explains why rivals are wrong to focus on speeds and feeds:

It’s a post-PC use case. You’re not bounded by performance. You’re bounded by user interaction. I don’t think a user can distinguish a performance difference or get a sense of the speed of the hardware by using it. It’s a different metric. The iPad’s efficient memory usage stems from the fundamental difference in the architecture of the operating system Apple’s iOS handles multitasking differently than other tablet operating systems, allowing it to reduce the amount of memory required to support the microprocessor.

And because Apple owns the user experience by making its own operating system, user interface and hardware designs down to the selection of individual parts, it is able to provide experiences half-baked Android tablets simply cannot touch. So, when will the Android tablets catch up?

All of the major [Android tablet] makers spent this past year directing all of their efforts toward finding the right mix of components. They really didn’t pay attention to software. They thought, Google is doing something, we’ll take whatever they have. And that’s pretty much what happened. But it’s still not cohesive.

Then, there’s this little problem related to manufacturing costs…

Tapping its billions in bank, Apple often squeezes best deals out if its suppliers. Coupled with volume manufacturing and economies of scale, iPad’s bill of material is still the lowest of the bunch. As a result, Apple enjoys hefty margins that are the envy of the industry. At the same time, something has to give for Android makers who either price themselves out of the market or watch as costs eat into their already slim margins. Apple’s decision to acquire PA Semi chip wizards and dive deeper into semiconductor design has paid off as the company no longer use off-the-shelf processors and parts like its rivals. As a result, Apple is able to differentiate its mobile devices down to the chip level. And as tablets move to quad-core processors like Nvidia’s Kal-El chip and Apple designs the next-generation A6 processor, the story will repeat itself unless Google gets back to the drawing board to match Apple’s exquisite software design, something that has always been the soul of their gadgets. It’s the software, stupid! Plus, Apple gets them while they’re young.

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