Tablet computing: is it finally here?

ipaddoubleThe tablet style computer has been around since the early 1990’s.  They’ve come in all kinds of styles, shapes and sizes. They have used all kinds of operating systems, from Windows to specialized operating systems. Aside from sales to vertical markets like the medical industry, all have failed to capture the general public’s imagination. Until this year, that is.

Of course, I speak of the Apple iPad.  The iPad is the first truly desirable tablet style computer.  Unfortunately, the device is way overpriced and very limiting in what you can and are allowed to do with it.  Fortunately, there are several devices coming out that may just be able to compete with the iPad.

Price has been the primary reason these devices failed to catch on.  Apple’s device-as expensive as it is-is the first to deliver on a better price point AND deliver features that people want.  Price is also an advantage for some of the competitors.

Samsung is introducing an Android based tablet called the Galaxy S Tab and will be offered by a few cell phone companies, which means you can get one subsidized if you buy a data plan.  This tablet looks to be the best of the bunch. It features a 7 inch screen, 1gigahertz processor (which is pretty fast for these things) and a front facing camera for things like Skype.  It will feature the Android marketplace, which means Apps.  LOTS of apps.

RIM, the Blackberry maker, is bringing out the Playbook which is an adjunct to the Blackberry. This device is aimed squarely at the business market but I suspect more than a few consumers will buy the device.

Pandigital has two devices out, one is marketed as a e-book reader but is really a tablet. The other device will be marketed as a tablet.  The Pandigital reader is pretty cheap, about $150 US.  Both run Android, though the app marketplace is not available on the devices.

Walgreen’s currently is offering the Maylong 7 inch tablet for just $99 US.  Now, lets not pretend this is even a good deal.  It is running an older version of Android and lacks the app store, BUT it is sufficient enough for simple things like web browsing, twitter and Facebook.  If nothing else, you can use it as a digital picture frame and media player. For the price, it is OK for those purposes.

Then there are what I call the ‘tween’ devices: devices in a tablet form, but do less. Things like the Kindle 3, the two Nooks and any number of e-ink based devices.  Many, if not all, offer up at least Wi-Fi, some kind of internet browsing and even a few apps.  Amazon now has apps for the Kindle and since the Nook is Android based, it should be able to run them too. These devices run for less than $200 and are pretty good for what they do.

If you are shopping for a tablet, avoid any of them that run Windows Embedded, Windows Mobile or Windows CE.  This particular operating system is no longer supported by Microsoft, is slow as molasses and the devices are just crap. Well, actually, crap is being to kind.  These things are below that. Seriously.

HP is going to be introducing a Windows 7 tablet. Avoid it too.  I am a huge Windows fan, but it is far from finger friendly.  Shoe horning Windows into a small, low res screen with a touch interface is just beyond dumb.  And I wanted one of these prior to the iPad.  Well, no one is perfect.

HP’s purchase of Palm earlier in the year has pretty much guaranteed that the webOS will continue and will, in fact, power another HP branded tablet device. This one has me excited since webOS was built for the finger (OK, get your minds back on track) and should work nicely in such devices.

2011 could, finally, be the year of the tablet that the tech press-and Microsoft, which is curiously absent now-have been touting for almost twenty years. Hey, if you keep saying something long enough, it’s bound to happen, right?

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4 thoughts on “Tablet computing: is it finally here?

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