Analysis by Patrick Avenell

Just as medicinal tablets come in both branded and non-branded varieties, so too do tablet computers. When making the decision to invest in a tablet, you can choose the original, best selling Apple iPad or you can opt for one of the many, many, many similar but slightly different tablets on the market.

And once you’ve made the choice to go with the Android operating system – which is like buying generic paracetamol instead of Panadol – you then have to choose from a bevy of manufacturers, each offering only the slightest difference in specifications in a humble attempt to stand out from the pack.

If being the essentially the same was a form of art, meet Lenovo da Vinci.

Announced this afternoon, Lenovo’s first foray into tablets is an awesome example of how to make just the slightest change from one’s competitors in order to be both the same and different at the same time – like a touchscreen version of Schrödinger’s Cat.

Called the IdeaPad K1, Lenovo’s first consumer tablet runs Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) off an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core processor, has dual cameras (5MP rear, 2MP front), an HD screen (1280×800), and a mini HDMI port. In addition to the 40 pre-loaded apps on the IdeaPad K1 and access to the Android Marketplace, Lenovo also has its own App Shop for users to download apps that are optimised for the device.

The IdeaPad K1 is due to be released in September in both Wi-Fi and 3G models. No details have been released regarding telco partners.

The 16GB Wi-Fi model is RRP $569 ($10 less than virtually every other Android 16GB Wi-Fi model) and the 32GB Wi-Fi is RRP $679.

For Wi-Fi plus 3G, the 16GB model is RRP $729 while the 32GB model is RRP $809.

The only other piece of relevant information regarding the IdeaPad that was included in the official media release was its weight: 730 grams. We have requested a full spec sheet for this tablet so we can provide more information.

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With so many tablet computers running the same operating system in hardware that is essentially the same, at prices that are almost exactly the same, the Android tablet category is clearly one in which supply is outstripping demand.

Of course, no two tablets are exactly the same — the Motorola Xoom has 3G, the Asus Transformer can dock with a keyboard, the Acer Iconia A500 has a full USB port, the Toshiba Tablet has full size HDMI and the Samsung Galaxy 10.1v was exclusive to Vodafone — but for the average consumer looking to purchase an Android tablet, they are indistinguishable.

Lenovo has taken this to the next level: the IdeaPad name is so close to iPad, the pricing is just a little bit different to everyone else, there’s an App Shop for us to confuse with Apple’s App Store, and there’s Lenovo’s exclusive SocialTouch app which would only marginally differ from all the other exclusive social networking apps on Android tablets.

This Android saturation only makes the Apple iPad and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook even more attractive, as at least they are offering something different. Next week, HP will launch its own WebOS tablet, the TouchPad — that is something to look forward to.