Article written

  • on 13.04.2010
  • at 03:56 PM
  • by The Q

Year of the Tablet 0

In the tech world, it’s beginning to look like 2010 may go down in history as “The Year of the Tablet”. Although tablet PC concepts have been floating around since the turn of the millennium, early attempts at these devices failed to attract attention. As the demand for mobility increases, it seems that consumers are now willing to embrace the idea of this new and unique device. At least that’s what companies like Apple and Lenovo are banking on – both have recently announced tablet-style devices to be released in months to come.

Although you may begin to hear the word “tablet” more and more as time goes on, the term is still very broad and may need a clear definition. Think of the tablet as a device – not just a PC – that is manipulated with the use of a touch screen rather than the conventional mouse and keyboard associated with full-sized laptops, desktops and even netbooks. More often than not, users provide input to the device using the onscreen keyboard and one or more fingers to tap, drag and scroll through elements on the device.

Many would argue that the revival of the tablet began with Apple’s announcement of the oddly named iPad at the beginning of the year. It seems that Apple’s approach has always been to take an existing consumer technology, make it more user-friendly, pretty it up and advertise the daylights out of it (think iMac and iPhone). That strategy holds true with the iPad. The iPad, which happens to be Apple’s first attempt at a tablet, closely resembles the iPhone and iPod Touch, even down to the single push button below the 9.7” touch screen. iPad users will have access to the same App Store available to current iPhone and iPod users in addition to the iWork suite for producing spreadsheets, presentations and rich text documents.

While the iWork suite may sound appealing to those hoping to use the iPad as a productivity device, the device should not be mistaken for a personal computer replacement.

The iPad comes with a 1GHz processor (comparable to most netbooks), which makes it ideal for video streaming, data/word processing and even some moderate mobile gaming. However the iPad lacks a physical keyboard and the ability to run more than one app at the same time, so you’ll probably want to keep your laptop close by for time-sensitive or lengthy assignments. The $499 Wi-Fi enabled model dropped April 3rd and the 3G model will soon follow.

A large number of critics have spoken out against the iPad and the hype surrounding it, pointing out that it appears to be nothing more than an oversized iPod Touch. In response, Apple’s promotion of the product seems to put a strong emphasis on what sets the device apart from its older siblings, the iPhone and iPod. With digital book consumption on a steady rise, Apple is quick to push the downloadable iBook app and accompanying iBookstore, which provide a simple interface for purchasing and reading eBooks on the device. Although the iBook app may be an attractive addition to the iPad, those interested in the device solely for reading can get a better experience and even save some coin with the Amazon Kindle discussed below.

For those hoping to get more of a PC experience out of their tablet, Lenovo’s soon-to-be-released IdeaPad U1 may be a more attractive option. Announced at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) in January, the U1 is a clever laptop-tablet hybrid that combines the usability of a laptop with the mobility of a tablet. The device is basically a laptop with a removable 11.6” screen, each with its own processor and operating system.

At CES, spokespeople for Lenovo were eager to demonstrate the device’s ability to remember what webpage a user was visiting while switching from laptop to tablet mode. The IdeaPad U1 is expected to cost around $999 and according to Lenovo’s website, will be released this summer.

One of the largest selling points for a tablet-style device is its ability to deliver books in a new and exciting manner. While it may not fall under the tablet category, the Amazon Kindle has been offering consumers a simple way to read digital eBooks for years now.

From top to bottom, the Kindle has been built specifically for eBook reading. The base device is under a 1/3” thick, holds up to 1,500 books at a time, and offers a text-to-speech feature for those who prefer to listen. The device reads in 16 shades of gray and uses a unique “digital paper” technology manufactured by E Ink Corporation to provide unmatched readability when compared to devices using LED or LCD screens (like the iPad and U1). This same technology is responsible for the Kindle’s surprisingly forgiving battery consumption – the official sales page for the Kindle touts a charge of up to one week.

Consumers have access to a library of over 450,000 books, with New York Times bestselling titles priced at just $9.99. The 6” base Kindle can be purchased through Amazon at $259. A premium model, the Kindle DX, can store up to 3,500 books, offers a larger 9.7” display and will set you back $459.

As the story often goes, the tablet you choose should be based on your needs as a consumer. To learn a little more about any of the products discussed in this article, head over to the manufacturer’s respective website.

By Nick Howe

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