Keep taking the tablets

by / Wednesday, 12 January 2011 / Published in Blog

Just into 2011 and the media has been filled with news from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Be it websites or podcasts, whichever media you use to follow developments, you can’t have failed to notice that the strongest trend was all about tablet computing.

At this year’s show there was a staggering 80 announcements of new tablets coming to market, the vast majority powered by Android. There was also BackBerry’s PlayBook and a few running Windows 7.

Of course, none of this is fundamentally new. The whole concept of a point and click computer you could carry around, keyboard optional, has been a fully fledged reality since the start of the noughties. But these devices were still pen-driven and were running on Windows XP with added software. Yet the principle was there and some specialist users were buying this kit.

What has transformed the playing field seems to be the usual story of converging technologies which have created a product category that finally meets the interests and aspirations of the buying public.

We no longer need pens as capacitive screens mean we can use fingers reliably. Storage can now be solid state, making it light, much less power hungry and, crucially, small.

That means we have a growing roll-call of 7 to 10 inch tablets which pack powerful, usually ARM-designed, processors, plenty of storage and a battery with a half-decent chance of making it to the other side of the day.

That’s going to make for some interesting developments in 2011 as it’s a reasonable assumption that Google’s latest flavour of the Android OS, developed for tablets, will cause the same type of trend as we’re seeing in the smartphone market. There Android has made huge gains in market share and a quick look in any phone retailer’s window shows the list of manufacturers and models running Android is growing every month.

Just as it did for MP3 players and then smartphones, Apple kick-started a tablet sector that was in the doldrums by building better devices that caught the public imagination. But, having given the tablet sector a shot in the arm, the iPad is likely to become just one of a wide array of tablet options fighting for consumer spend in 2011.

But what all this break-neck development will do is have some unintended consequences for other computing and telecoms sectors. For one, already stretched mobile networks are going to be under even greater pressure to deliver usable mobile data services. Meanwhile, the hopes of achieving the dream of ‘one laptop per child’ as proposed by Nicholas Negroponte may finally be realised as the tightly integrated technology of tablets reaches price points where it actually becomes an achievable objective.

It’s all so exciting… I might even buy one!


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