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Summary:

The Microsoft Tablet PC may have been around for a decade, but the newly released iPad has defined a new market for slates. Sales numbers have been good and tablet makers are racing to get their models to market late this year and early next year.

Cruz Tablet

As a long-time tablet enthusiast, it is with amusement that I watch the “new” tablet space taking shape. The Microsoft Tablet PC may have been around for a decade, but the newly released iPad has defined a new market for slates. Sales numbers for the iPad have been good, and tablet makers are racing to get their models to market late this year and early next year. Here’s what I expect to see coming down the pipe.

While Apple is enjoying the success of the iPad, rumors say they’re working on smaller models. According to DigiTimes, Apple is working on a 5.6-inch and a 7-inch version of the iPad to tap into the new market. These new iPads will have OLED displays, which have been in short supply recently. There is no indication yet from Apple that these new iPads will actually happen.

Android is going to be a big factor in the tablet world with many different companies working on models for this year. There are slates of different screen sizes, from 7 inches to over 10 inches, all with touch screens. There are thin ones and thick ones in progress — just about every size and shape you can imagine for a slate. Some will have integrated 3G for connectivity, while others will rely on Wi-Fi.

Many OEMs are claiming that their new tablet will be able to access the Android Market for apps. This is significant as Google has only allowed smartphone devices to access the market so far. This will open the Android platform up dramatically and drive its growth even faster than the impressive pace it’s shown to date. With so many tablets expected in just a short while, development for them will surely shift into overdrive as apps for larger screens can typically sell at higher prices than the smartphone versions.

We can expect to see a few Windows tablets hit the market this year, according to Steve Ballmer of Microsoft. HP may have killed the Slate that was shown early this year, but it may still release one. Ballmer did mention quite a few hardware partners working on slates without detailing what any of them might produce. His definition of slate is rather broad, as he indicated some of them will have keyboards and some will not. It sounds like the convertible notebook that’s been around for years is being lumped into the slate category. Those are expensive compared to most of the tablets expected this year, so we’ll be paying attention to how this plays out.

HP may not release the Windows-based Slate, but the company has stated it will be producing a tablet running webOS this year. This is probably the most exciting tablet of the coming flood, as this hasn’t been done before and HP has a lot of resources to make this interesting. The image of a thin, light tablet running the touch-optimized webOS is quite intriguing.

The tablet space is going to be very active, that’s for sure. We can expect to see companies releasing slates of some type starting in the fourth quarter of this year. There will likely be a constant flood of press releases touting some tablet or another once the dam breaks. There is one thing I am confident OEMs must do with their tablets if they want to succeed: concentrate on the user experience, not just the form factor.

Related content on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Can Anyone Compete With the iPad?

  1. All these android tablets had damned well better have access to the android market. That google disallows any android devices from access to the market, such as current tablets and e-readers (nook), is absolutely stupid. There’s very little benefit for the consumer if a manufacturer uses android if the device is just going to be segregated and isolated into its own corner without access to apps. In fact, it just creates more confusion because a consumer will expect that anything android will be able to get apps from the app store. That’s the whole damned point of having a centralized app store in the first place!

    Someday (soon), I’d like to see android in other devices, such as digital cameras. These all should have full access to the app store too.

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  2. Moreover Microsoft and Apple-assuming the rumors are on target and they both release tablet PC’s in the near future–are not the only players in the tablet PC market, but they will be the biggest and most visible. Speculation is already mounting that the Apple “iSlate” could spark lines similar to the launch of the iPhone, and one rumor suggests that Apple intends to sell 10 million tablet PC’s per year.

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  3. __)-)
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    Microsoft Sheep ! Now is the time to unite against our fearless egghead leader and stop this madman from releasing Windows 7 on a slate computer. Ballmer it is time for you to pack your bags and get the hell out of Redmond, nobody wants you around here no more, you have single-handedly devalued this corporation by fifty percent since you were given (not earned) the CEO position. Go Now and don’t let the door hit you on your way out, we wouldn’t want to sue you for damages.

    For the love of God, Family and all things Good, please lord do NOT attempt to put Windoze 7 on a true tablet.
    We have already been down this road and its a dead end.
    Somebody tell those clowns in executive penguin suits in Redmond that the Stylus DIED a long long time ago.

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    1. Actually, those at MS who are responsible for squandering their early advantage in the tablet world are the ones who should be fired. Had they followed through we could be happily using a 3rd generation Win7 based successor to the TC1100 which remains, arguably, one of the best form factors produced for a Windows tablet. The death of the Courier is just another example of MS throwing away a perfectly good and eminently executable idea.

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    2. “…the Stylus DIED a long long time ago.”

      Well, maybe those plastic toothpicks are dead, but tablet computing is worth NOTHING without a good Wacom pen. You read that right-if it does not have some sort of active pen digitizer, your device does not deserve a single cent from me. Capacitive multi-touch is optional, but the pen is MANDATORY. (Both would be ideal, however, and it’s not impossible-see all the touch + pen Tablet PCs currently on the market.)

      The problem is that said pen isn’t being used correctly. It is not a simple mouse alternative. It is a different input method and should be treated as such. That is what Courier promised…oh wait, we won’t be getting that after all.

      They need to think beyond keyboard and mouse, and plain text for that matter. Think pen and paper…but what if the paper wasn’t so static? That it was a more dynamic, interactive medium that could be edited with ease? That is what I want out of tablet computing.

      Alas, Windows-based Tablet PCs with OneNote, SketchBook Pro, etc. are the closest I’m going to get to this for the time being, maybe until the Kno releases (and that device is just way too big with dual 14″ screens; even a single 14″ screen would be a bit much to manage).

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  4. There are plenty of decent resources for .apk files (Android apps) that tablet owners can go to to download apps… all you need to do is set up your Android OS to accept applications from “unknown sources” under settings>applications>

    Then check your downloads history in your browser and select the file you want install.

    Easy peasy

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  5. So is the microsoft courier officially dead now? I was so looking forward to that one as my schoolboy dream was to have an electronic slate for doodling when I was bored :) I’d have brought it just to shout at the top of my lungs “FINALLY, I HAVE MY DOODLE SLATE” :D. The fact that it could be used everyday in the business world would just be a bonus. Might become more of a distraction in boring board meetings than an asset encouraging creativity though :)

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  6. I think Apple iPhone 4G has some kind of Tablet built in, so that you can draw on the screen and then transfer to your pc

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  7. I want to believe that HP is going to get webOS on a tablet in short order. The UI is perfect for that type of device. I’ve yet to see its Android equal. However, the cynic in me thinks that HP will move too slowly and ultimately get lost in a sea of Android based tablets.

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  8. I don’t put any faith in the current rumors about smaller-sized iPads, for the simple reason that neither version of the current iOS would work with those devices – they’re too small for the iPad interface features, but the iPhone features would be ridiculous, especially on a 7″ device. Apple puts far too much weight on the user experience to release a device without an interface specifically tailored to it, and they’ve got too many irons in the fire right now to spend valuable time working up yet another interface variation for iOS.

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  9. Interesting. I’m glad you cleared up your enthusiasm for tablets, which may (actually it totally does) show your bias about the iPad. Not nit picking of course, but it’s always better knowing more about a person writing a story or review of something they actually really like before actually using it.

    That said, tablets. Let’s see. The impeding rush? I’m going to say the rush for what? The treasure and gold at the end of the rainbow?

    The reality comes down to 2 things. Usage and cost. Tablets usage is not a be all end all. A computer, netbook, laptop can do EVERYTHING you need. Smartphones can do pretty much most things and that list keeps on growing.

    Talking cost? When you can read ebooks with your laptops that weighs about the same as a tablet, yet the computer has the keyboard, um, where is that market for these? I mean, aside from the stiffs in the board rooms.

    Apple has done it. They have made a miracle device. It’s popular all right, there is no denying that. However, the entire table onslaught is based on a false market. Sure a few people with extra money might buy them, but seriously. Netbooks were born out of need. Tablets are born out of… the success of the iPad? It’s funny.

    2 reasons they fail faster than they release them. Cost because you can probably buy 2 or 3 ereaders for the price of 1 tablet. Second reason, usage. A glorified ereader/netbook that lacks a keyboard is about as useful as well, I’m not sure. Buy a keyboard dock and great you have what you should have bought in the first place.

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