Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tablet Fever

Apparently at CES this year, some 100 or more tablets were announced or introduced.

That's crazy.

Just one year ago, right before the iPad was announced, Steve Ballmer got up on stage to announce a few tablets, highlighting one -- the HP Slate -- that wouldn't even go into production. Why? Because once again, the ideas and concept products from manufacturers all had to be re-thought and redesigned in order to compete.

The iPad. When it was announced January 2010, most tech journalists screamed disappointment, their favorite word to describe it being "underwhelming." Oh, it was "just a big iPod Touch." And most people wrote it off as unimportant nearly instantaneously. The problem wasn't with the device at all. The problem was with people's expectations. If the iPad cured cancer, it still wouldn't have satisfied those people. What, with all the hype and speculation the Apple Tablet had garnered for more than a decade?

But it turns out that being just a big iPod Touch is freaking awesome. As soon as I saw the iPad and then heard its "big iPod Touch" description, I thought, "Alright! A big iPod Touch! That's great!" What else could it have been? It seems that being just a larger iPod is still better than what any manufacturer could come up with for the past year and possibly even another year.

So the tablet hype is in full swing, and opinions about the iPad have come full circle. As soon as a few other manufacturers started seriously trying to ship Windows 7 tablets, we then had a more telling look at the devices when we could see them in action side-by-side. And the iPad won, over and over again.

Since then, Samsung recently has been the most direct competition for Apple with the release of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. It is built by using the phone Android OS, with Samsung doing what it can to make it more tablet-y. But after having high hopes for what it was and what it could do, after using it I was sadly disappointed. Samsung seemed to rush this thing into market, as it lacked real polish (as does most Android phones). And in many instances across the OS, there were too many references to the "phone" the OS thought is was running on. Looks like they forgot to erase the term "phone" and switch it to "tablet" or "tab." As an example, using a demo model, the Galaxy Tab told me that the phone was missing its card-storage.

However, now Android is finally out to compete is better products, and with the Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" OS coming on a bunch of new devices, we might finally see some actual competition for another market that Apple has once again dramatically influenced and/or dominated.

And as for Windows tablets? God, if they don't soon make the Windows Phone 7 OS over to a tablet form and call it Windows Tab 7 -- or something -- then they have no hope in this catagory. Somebody over there has got to get it together and realize that Windows 7 wont make it in the current market landscape. At CES, Microsoft announced that Windows will make it over to support an ARM-based infrastructure, which just means that they plan on making their desktop OS more fit for tablets. Get you heads out of your ass, Microsoft. Put all your resources in to Windows Phone 7 OS on tablets. It's good. You did great on that software. As soon as you join the pack with a real offering -- an OS with real simplicity, tight underpinnings, and a re-worked UI that's as fluid and seamless as your great new phone OS, then you might have a chance.

Here's just a sample of the tablets that were announced at CES, with more on the way.

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