I blogged earlier this week about the importance of a next generation smartphone OS and recently ran across this article over at the Wall Street Journal which reinforces the point. It discusses how multiple vendors are developing iPad competitors based on Android. The key is that Android is a next generation OS that provides the flexibility to support multiple hardware platforms. This is similar to how the iPhone was designed.
The other element to consider is that Android is a truly open platform allowing for broad application support. In contrast, Apple tightly controls the availability and qualification of applications for the iPhone/iPad platform. The Android approach provides much more flexibility and openness at the expense of control. Apple tighly controls their environment and can and does limit applications that do not meet their standards or compete with existing functionality (think Google Voice). Consumers will vote with their wallet on the solution that they want.
Clearly Apple has a big lead in the market with its early launch of the iPad, but the openness and broad vendor support of Android may allow for more aggressive competition. It will be interesting to see which technology emerges as the dominant one. For me, I always prefer openness and flexibility and so would be more willing to invest in Android over the iPad.