tablets, man. tablets. they're the latest front on which the mobile wars rage. desktops and laptops have pretty much become commoditized, and even the cell phone war has been a game of "who can beat the iphone," even though in my opinion the droid x does (shh, don't tell anyone, i'm trying to be impartial). after the surge of netbooks since 2007, they and their cousins the tablets would naturally have to come next.
so, next question - what the hell IS a tablet? why are they here? and what do they want with us? with the release of the ipad earlier this year, the big tech giants aren't exactly in agreement - steve jobs says the ipad and tablets exemplifies the end of the "mouse and keyboard" pc era, while steve ballmer's opinion is basically that the ipad and other tablet devices ARE, in fact, pc's. this all aside, "tablets," as they were, have been around for a pretty long time. we all (well some of us anyway) remember running windows xp tablet edition, waaaay back when the definition of a tablet pc really wasn't much more than a laptop with an outward facing screen and some limited pen input.
that definition has changed from then to now. a lot. and it only partially has to do with technology, as far as being an evolution from the netbook. beyond that, the definition of tablet really changed with an evolved definition of the user. you have your business users, home users and tech enthusiasts - the trinity that ruled consumer electronics for so long, and now a new class - the mobile media user. these users don't want high-grade graphics and cpu power for gaming or power for editing. they're not concerned with exchange push or being able to open up office to do some work. they're on the move - watching youtube on the train or tv through hulu on the bus, running fluff web apps and playing low-res, low-power games (that can still be extremely fun). so all this considered, what is a tablet, finally? with all the opinions floating around it's far to say that it's a hybrid. a "netbook plus," built for media consumption. less than a laptop or notebook, a low-power device running on something like an ARM or intel atom processors with a light operating system, that doesn't have the power to run high-end games and intensive applications. more than a cell phone, with larger screens for better media viewing and everyday usability.
|android-powered archos 5 tablet|
"they sold certainly more than I'd like them to sell, let me just be clear about that. We think about that. We think about that in competitive sense. And for us, then, the job is to say, Okay, we have a lot of IP, we have a lot of good software in this area, we've done a lot of work on ink and touch and everything else -- we have got to make things happen."
ironically this comes almost simultaneously to killing the their own courier tablet project, which sucks, because that thing looked straight awesome. unfortunately their mobile game still needs some work, from what we've seen of the windows phone 7. yes, "make things happen" indeed. windows 7 tablets were shown off at CES 10 in january on an hp slate, but they have since dropped windows 7 in lieu of the (probably) webOS platform, which they now own through their palm acquisition. HP's not alone in that decision - others have also skipped over windows 7 in favor of the android platform for their tablet - asus, samsung, and archos just to name a few.
ahhh yes. android. a light OS. the mobile OS of champions. the OS that gives google a real shot here in the tablet market. coming off extremely impressive sales of motorola's droid x and other android devices, it's clear that they're here to stay, and will continue to go head to head with apple for the tablet crown through the number of manufacturers that are adopting android. HP may be the sleeper in this war - now that their slate will potentially run webOS instead of windows 7, they'll have ownership of both their hardware and software, which is an advantage that only apple currently enjoys.
but let's not forget that blackberry is said to throw their hat in the ring with their "blackpad" in november. but we'll see how that goes - i'm not sure how a (one can only imagine) business-focused tablet is going to sail too far. and there's also verizon and motorola's upcoming tablet - the one i'm really excited about, that integrates fios tv into the tablet experience.
so let the war march on. the end winner is just going to be the consumer, since increased competition is going to force manufacturers to make their products more desirable versus their competitors. but until the major clash, apple's tablet throne is still intact.