No one would have seen this coming a few years ago, but suddenly the tablet PC is the hottest thing since sliced bread.
Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is ready to announce its much-awaited tablet on Jan. 26 and will ship the device in March. The details are still a bit mysterious, but we’re supposedly looking at a 10 to 11 inch screen and a price point somewhere between $500 and $1,000. The device may come with a Wi-Fi subscription, since it doesn’t look like carriers’ 3G networks are up to supporting the device.
The same day, chipmaker Freescale Semiconductor announced that it's looking to offer a 7 inch tablet sometime this summer for less than $200. Freescale says the device will run on Google’s Android OS or Linux, and will have Wi-Fi and 3G capabilities.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft will reportedly beat Apple to the punch with an announcement at CES that it is teaming with HP on a new tablet. Details are scarce at the moment, but the New York Times says that CEO Steve Ballmer will introduce “a multimedia whiz with e-reader and multi-touch functions.” Earlier this year, Gizmodo published images of a purported Microsoft tablet, dubbed Courier, with two 7-inch screens connected by a hinge.
And with the hype surrounding tablets right now, these certainly won’t be the only devices to hit the market -- Dell is reported to have its own in the works.
Any guesses as to how this will play out? And will this be a short-lived fad or a legitimate market?
There will be a market for tablets, just as there is a market for e-readers. But will either of these markets be huge? Will either of these things have an impact on traditional computer and laptop sales? In my opinion, no, not yet.
Right now both tablets and e-readers are too expensive and eventually the technology will probably evolve into some sort of other product entirely.
In a way, this reminds me a bit of PDA's: was there a market for PDA's? Sure. Did gadget-crazed people own the latest and coolest Newton or Palm? Sure. Does the PDA market still exist today? No, not really... their functionality now exists in cell phones and netbooks.
Speaking of which, if I were given the choice between an $100 Android-powered, Wi-Fi/3G, 7-inch Netbook or a $100 Android-powered, Wi-Fi/3G, 7-inch Tablet... I'm taking the Netbook. I know opinions vary, but I prefer clicking actual buttons on a keyboard.
QUOTE: In a way, this reminds me a bit of PDA's: was there a market for PDA's? Sure. Did gadget-crazed people own the latest and coolest Newton or Palm. Sure. Does the PDA market still exist today? No, not really... their functionality now exists in cell phones and netbooks.
There is a definitely a parallel there, KGB.
And what seems to be getting lost in all the hype is that the tablet form factor is not particularly new. Microsoft launched a tablet that ran on XP in 2002.
But people are really looking for Apple to change the tablet game in the same way they amped up the smartphone market with the iPhone.
Microsoft's rumored dual-screen Courier tablet, which looks a bit like an electronic day-planner, might also represent the kind of innovation that could spark the tablet business. Unfortunately, that wasn't the tablet that Steve Ballmer showed off last night at CES. He showed, briefly, a run-of-the-mill HP tablet running on Windows 7 (along with a couple of other tablets from other companies).
"What we saw confirmed my worst suspicions that this is your standard Microsoft software in a slate form," Engadget's Paul Miller told BBC News.
I don't know a couple of years ago when I was looking for my laptop I was looking for a tablet at the same time but it was mainly as a complement to the laptop functionality. At the time and with the current offerings they are still to expensive for what you get. As I said in earlier posts for a $500-$1000 price point it is dead before it starts but adding these different functionalities under $300 may open the door a little wider.
Looks like Deloitte is feeling pretty confident about the tablet market. On Jan. 18, the firm issued a report predicting that "tens of millions" of people will purchase tablets this year.
"Previous attempts at the tablet form factor failed for many reasons: the graphics, software, and user-interface were underwhelming, there was poor connection to cellular or WiFi networks, and they were used largely for work-oriented data-entry," says Deloitte. "By contrast, a consumer-focused device primarily for media and Web browsing is much more likely to be accepted by the market."
Of course, Deloitte isn't getting carried away. PCs and phones aren't in any danger, says the firm: "PC-like text or data entry would be cumbersome and [tablets] are not portable enough to replace a phone-sized device." E-readers, however, could be a different story.