2011: the year of the tablet?

Maybe.  I’m not sure that it will be, but there are a slew of new and exciting tablets coming out over the next few months.  Among them, the webOS powered TouchPad from Palm/HP, the Xoom from Motorola, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the RIM/Blackberry Playbook and, of course, the just announced Apple iPad 2 (gee, what a clever name.)

The Samsung and Motorola devices are already out and the Blackberry and HP devices should be out sometime in the middle of the year-possibly too late to make any kind of difference outside of the business world (for the Blackberry device.)  Apple is bringing the iPad 2 to market on March 11.

Of all of the devices-and they all have some really nice features-the HP and Apple devices look the best in terms of features and usability.  HP’s acquisition of Palm gave it, perhaps, one of the best mobile platforms ever: webOS.  webOS is perfect for a tablet device. It was, like iOS in the iPad, designed from the ground up to be a finger friendly operating system.  Unlike Windows, which is keyboard and mouse centric, both iOS and webOS can be used strictly with your fingers and be productive. 

Other tablets, like the Xoom and Galaxy, use Android as the operating system but, unlike iOS and webOS, it was not designed to scale properly for tablet use and is not overly finger friendly. Still, devices using Android are compelling enough that they can be worthy competitors to Apple and iPad.

iPad 2 has enough new features to warrant its purchase even if you already own the original iPad.  While I am not as enamored by the forward and rear facing cameras as others, I can see the forward facing camera being useful for video conferencing when used with a stand (who would want to hold the bloody thing that long?)  The thinner and lighter device also features a gyroscope for better orientation detection, a dual core processor for faster and smoother operation, improved graphics performance and, shockingly, new accessories such as the ‘smart cover’ and new video cables that feature HDMI output that will mirror what ever is on the iPad 2 screen on your big screen television or monitor.  (This feature, part of the new iOS 4.3, will also work on the original iPad, once upgraded.)

touchpad1The TouchPad, from HP, is a 9.7 inch tablet running the webOS.  This nice looking device features a 1.2 gigahertz, dual core processor that is fast. At first glance, the device resembles an iPad.  The operating system, however, really shows the very different approaches that Apple and Palm took when developing the user interface layer.  webOS performs true multitasking, that is, you can start multiple apps and each app will continue to function, even when you are doing something else. With iPad, you are really just switching from one task to another with the task you leave simply stopping until you get back to it.  Some apps, like Pandora, are allowed to do certain things in the background, like play music. TouchPad also features a compass, gyroscope and accelerometer so it knows just where it is, relatively speaking. Resolution is 1024 by 768, same as the iPad and other similar devices. Audio is stereo out and stereo speakers are included.  Wireless charging is standard and uses the Touchstone charging system that the Pre uses.  Initially, only the Wi-Fi version will be available, but a 3g and 4g version will be available after release.  As nice as this seems, HP really needs to be aggressive with pricing.  It cannot cost more than the iPad and, really, needs to be cheaper. 

You can read more about TouchPad here.

I’m torn as to which device I would purchase. I already have an iPad and the Pandigital eReader, so I don’t need another but…the HP and iPad 2 are very tempting and the RIM Playbook looks awfully nice as well.  I would lean toward the TouchPad, but would have to see what the pricing is going to be before ruling out iPad 2.  (And don’t forget iPad 1, it is now $100(US) cheaper until inventory runs out.)

Oh, and where is Microsoft? They have a nice operating system in Windows Phone 7 but they have said that they will not be using that in a tablet device. Instead, they want to cram Windows 8 into phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, the Hadron Collider and anything else they can adapt it for, which is, in my opinion, a mistake. Looks like they have just ceded the market that they helped create. They really want to become a niche company it seems.

I’m off to play Angry Birds now.  Cheers.

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