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Summary:

This year has seen netbooks decline in popularity and the rise of the tablet to a level few predicted. Apple set the stage for tablet popularity with the release of the iPad that took the world by storm, and Android tablets are hitting the market.

Tab v iPad

This year has seen netbooks decline in popularity and the tablet rise to a level few predicted. Apple set the stage for tablet popularity with the release of the iPad, which took the world by storm. Manufacturers of Android devices were quick to respond, with Samsung leading the way with the Galaxy Tab, which has sold over a million units. The tablet is just taking off, and will likely be the hot item next year as consumer awareness grows.

It’s easy to forget that tablets as a device class are nothing new. Microsoft introduced the first Tablet PC in 2002, but was never able to reach commercial success with the platform. Early tablets were too expensive for consumers, and too heavy for serious tablet work. It didn’t help that they were saddled with the Windows operating system, which isn’t built around tablet functions. Even Windows 7, with touch capability integrated into the OS, falls short of offering a good tablet experience.

Current tablets are hot items due to three factors: mobile OS, form factor and pricing. Apple proved with the iPad that the benefits of a slate device running a mobile OS, designed for just such operation from the ground up, are significant. The iPad appealed to consumers immediately, as the popular iPhone user experience was duplicated on the larger screen, and even improved due to that screen. The thin, light form of the iPad was a first in the tablet space, and consumers flocked to the slate that is comfortable to use in the hands. The icing on the iPad cake is the good pricing that makes the tablet inch closer to the realm of the impulse buy. It’s not quite there yet, but far closer than the $2,000 Tablet PC of the past.

These factors that make the iPad a success are also brought to the consumer by Android tablets. The Galaxy Tab is even better on the form factor front given the smaller screen, and Android devices from 5 inches up to 10 inches are already in the pipeline. The Android platform is designed for touch operation like iOS, and the user experience on the tablet form is already popular as indicated by the sales numbers of the Galaxy Tab.

This year was definitely the year of the tablet, even with only a few models reaching consumers’ hands. Next year will see the genre explode, as dozens of models hit the market and pricing drops due to competition. There will be Windows-based tablets getting released in greater numbers next year, but the platform is not going to appeal to consumers like the touch-friendly competitors. It’s clear 2011 will be interesting on the tablet front as other companies come to play.

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  1. I don’t agree that the Galaxy form factor is better at all. The iPad is a sweet spot IMHO considering that most people with a tablet already have a smart phone if some kind. 7in is too small when you have a device just a little smaller in your pocket. What’s the point?

    Granted there are more androids coming out with a larger form factor which is good. I hope they are solid as well. But 7 is too small.

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    1. It’s a personal choice, and why it’s good to have choices in the genre. I personally find the 7-inch display to be perfect for the tasks I use a tablet for, better as it’s more mobile.

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    2. Gameboy213, I don’t disagree with your premise or opinion but I’m coming to a potentially different conclusion.

      You said: “most people with a tablet already have a smart phone if some kind. 7in is too small when you have a device just a little smaller in your pocket.”

      Call me crazy, but I think a 7″ tablet with 3G could replace my need for a smartphone. Seriously. I’ve barely touched my Nexus One since I got a Tab this past weekend – the Tab goes everywhere and fits in my back pocket or a jacket pocket. In that light, I could make do with a cheap prepaid feature phone or hack the Tab to use it for voice (which is supported in non-U.S. models)

      Not saying that’s what most people would do, by any means, just pointing out a different conclusion because I agree there’s overlap between a decent sized smartphone and a 7″ tablet.

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      1. Wow, so you took the plunge as well? As an iPad owner and avid listener to Mobiletech Roundup, I have listened to the perspectives and insights of James and Matt (and your leanings!) regarding the Tab. In fact, Matt initially convinced me the Nook Color was worth checking out – which I did, but concluded I needed a more ‘tablet-oriented’ device. Their combined feedback prompted me to pick up a Tab (T-Mobile) last week, and with just weeks before Christmas I justified the instand hotspot/mifi replacement argument. And the kids will get more time with my iPad.

        I will be interested in your thoughts and which carrier you went with. I also found it interesting for the three of you “tech gadget guys” to make a purchase just prior to CES, hopefully it means you are confident enough in this piece of hardware that it will not quickly be overshadowed in January.

        I am enjoying the Tab thus far, but I am also noticing things that when comparing to the iPad, could be a bit better/smoother. I believe it was James that said if Apple were to release a 7-inch iPad Mini, they would sell a ton. Another 10 days or so before my ability to return expires, so we’ll see. Right now, I am planning on keeping it.

        Keep up the good work and Happy Holidays.

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  2. I have both the iPad and Galaxy Tab. I agree with James, I like the size of the Tab better for what I do (read/send emails, surf the uberwebz, ebooks and mms/sms). Sure the iPad plays videos and games better but I don’t play videos and games that much.

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  3. Good points, James….

    It will be interesting to see if Apple comes out at some point with a ‘miniPad’ at +/- 7″ to offer more choice to consumers….

    As well, will be interesting to see what iPad2 is like and whether or not as some have predicted the display size will be the same, but the surrounding bezel might shrink, reducing the overall size a tad….

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  4. I have both the ipad and the Galaxy. I like the iPad more, I think …. LOL

    I use these tablets mostly for reading. Now of course the Galaxy is better for reading on the go, but the iPad is better for reading in bed or in a chair, as you have to prop both of them up anyway, so the weight isn’t a deciding factor.

    Also there are apps for EVERYTHING for the iPad. Diverse subjects. There’s nada for android, except the basic essentials.

    So you guys are saying you would give up your Ipad now and go with Android now? . To each their own.

    I perhaps would lean towards the 7″ tab if I wanted to have the Internet with me everywhere. Fortunately, I don’t ;)

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    1. What do you mean “there’s nada for android….”?

      Have you looked at the Market??? There’s thousands of apps for just about EVERYTHING, plus there are other sources besides the Market too….

      btw, I mostly use AppBrain to find apps and it works great….

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  5. these Apple guys are funny, i never heard even ONE person say 7″ was too small until Steve Jobs said so. they remind me alot of Republicans, the trickle down effect of single-mindedness, hypocrisy be damned.

    in fact, i remember there being alot of excitement in the Apple community when the iPad 2 rumors were talking about an introduction of a 7″ version.

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  6. I wouldn’t be too quick to discount netbooks just yet James. The only reason they’ve been lagging behind in 2010 is because Intel has been sitting on it’s laurels with Atom. AMD’s Nile already kicked Intel to the curb in the 10″ and 11″ netbook space this year, and next year’s Brazos platform will undoubtedly shake up the netbook segment further with more powerful and power-saving models.

    I can certainly understand the popularity of slates, don’t get me wrong, but netbooks still serve their uses, offering uncompromised productivity for the most mobile of users out there.

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  7. No no, 2011 is the Year of the Tablet. 2010 is when things got started.

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    1. Things got started? How many people do you know who bought the Galaxy Tab? The iPad yes in 2010, but outside of that the “table invasion” began? Where? I must have missed that. Or are we throwing Kindles into this silly “tablet invasion”.

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  8. while i love tablets, i cant help but think sales next year are going to be a massive disappointment. even iPad sales are a little bit disappointing considering the original forecast, so if Apple cant keep iPad sales sustained for 6 months then how will anybody else?

    i think the biggest culprit for the upcoming disappointment is this artificial hype by gadget blogs whos page view/income live-and-die on it. its not a coincidence that even though netbook sales are NOT declining (just slowed growth) blogs keep stating that “netbooks are dead” in order to create tablet hype & get another surge in page views/income.

    i used to be in this “industry”, i know all the tricks. when you base your business on numbered quota articles & catchy headlines you wont last longterm, much like a celebrity that relies on gimmicks over talent (i.e. Lady gaga).

    always always always follow the money folks & you will see exactly the motivation for a certain corporation/individual POV.

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  9. I shouldn’t respond to a pretty weak premise, but I can’t resist for whatever reason.

    Year of the tablet? You sure about that? Yes, year of the tablet announcements but get real. Ipad yes, the year of the iPad but why do you think most main tablets haven’t come to market yet?

    Your flaw is in that tablets are replacing netbooks or laptops. Here is where I say nonsense to you. Have you run a poll to see whether people are interested in a tablet primarily as a ereader? Yeah, 2010 the year of the ereader, but certainly I would debate how this makes it a tablet invasion.

    Again, very weak commentary or point. It’s a ridiculous heading. Year of the tablet announcements and nothing much more than that. You can’t say whether there is an appetite just based on the iPad. You can make a case that there is a big appetite for ereaders, but does that mean everyone is going to spend $400 when they can get a Kindle for $130???

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  10. I’ve been waiting to try Chrome OS out for a while

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