The Montreal Gazette

After making headlines for the last year, the Quebec-designed competitor for the iPad finally came to consumers Wednesday.

The Ciara Vibe tablet hit stores in Canada, with its official launch party Wednesday. For the next month, potential customers can try out the device in all Dumoulin stores across the province (Audiotronic outside Quebec).

The Vibe is powered by a user interface that adapts the Windows 7 operating system to a touch screen tablet. That user interface, software called ExoPC, was designed in Rimouski, Que. and is being licensed to hardware partners around the world.

For example, the counterpart of the Vibe in Europe is being sold by another company, and is called the MOBI-1. All of the tablets say they are powered by ExoPC.

ExoPC’s software was conceived in Rimouski by computer engineer Jean-Baptiste Martinoli. Last year, the company was bought by Groupe Hypertec Inc., which handled the distribution strategy.

Currently, the ExoPC is selling in Australia, Europe, Japan and the U.S.

ExoPC CEO Shan Ahdoot said the company’s goal is to have one million ExoPC-enabled devices by the end of the year. In Canada, Groupe Hypertec subsidiary CiaraTech is handling manufacturing and distribution of the device, which is being assembled in Asia.

“You have the power of Windows, and at the same time you have an interesting user interface,” Ahdoot said.

While the device being demonstrated seems less responsive than the iPad, it includes some features not available on Apple’s device.

The Vibe is one inch wider, has a webcam, two USB ports, an SD card reader, and an HDMI port.