The evolution of technology is sometimes cruel. A few years ago, we witnessed the birth of a new breed of small 10-inch Windows laptops called “netbooks.” These compact computers shunned processing power in favor of low price tags, portability, and better battery life, carrying older operating systems like Windows XP and running on Intel Atom processors. Sadly, their short time serving us may be ending. Tablets are taking their place. The touch tablet is evolving, and is already a viable netbook competitor. In the next few years, it will almost certainly take over the category entirely, becoming an accepted alternative to the Intel-based, Windows laptop or desktop you’ve known for the last decade and a half.
How did we get here?
Thanks to the incredibly fast growth of the smartphone market — which was sparked by the iPhone four years ago and fueled by an army of Android phones ever since — a new breed of computing devices called touch tablets have evolved. Based on the energy-efficient ARM architecture (think of ARM as the enemy of Intel chips) and lightweight operating systems (
Most tablets sport price tags from $300 to $500, 7- to 10-inch touchscreens, amazing battery life of nine hours or better, working Web browsers, A/V playback, email, a sea of smartphone-like apps and games available to download, and the ability to stay powered and connected for days in stand-by mode.
A failure at work
Sound amazing? Well, don’t get too excited yet. While the first batch of tablets show a lot of potential and are already quite useful at some tasks, they currently lack critical features needed for a full-scale invasion of the consumer PC market.
Weaknesses of touch tablets:
- They don’t have keyboards
- They have small hard drives (16GB to 64GB)
- Their Web capabilities are weak
- True multitasking is lacking
- There is a severe lack of productivity software
- Connecting to devices and printers isn’t easy
Basically, touch tablets are great for consuming and entertainment, but they fail when it comes to getting work done. It’s easy to read email, but responding to it on a small touchscreen isn’t as fun. Despite their many advantages over Macs and Windows-based computers, productivity isn’t a friend of
The Atrix comes too early
The year 2011 has been host to a number of experiments at converting the
However, with a new unified version of
Asus transforms tablets
Motorola also introduced the first
Asus saw a different future for tablets from the get go. In January, the company unveiled a line of 10.1-inch tablets that looked quite different from the competition, headlined by the Eee Pad Transformer and Eee Pad Slider. The Eee Pad Transformer is a 10.1-inch
The Eee Pad Transformer didn’t get a lot of attention by us in the tech press at first, but it’s been selling out at retailers as fast as Asus can make it. While other tablet manufacturers, like Motorola and RIM, have been disappointed with sales of their first tablets this year, Asus has seen demand grow each month since the Eee Pad Transformer’s debut in April. A few weeks ago, Asus CEO Jonney Shih reported that the manufacturer sold 300,000 Transformers in June and 400,000 in July. The company will debut its Eee Pad Slider tablet, which has a slide-out-and-tilt-up keyboard, in September, and a sequel to its Transformer will be shown before year’s end.
If rumors are true, the Transformer 2 will run on
Windows 8, an OS built for tablets
If there’s one thing that may spur the growth of tablet
From what we’ve seen, Windows 8 looks like a bold and interesting step for the company. It will almost certainly launch with some innovative hardware attached to it. Microsoft made a point of showing tablet-like
Knowing it is under the gun, we hope that Google further builds up
Ultrabooks: the PC goes on offense
For further proof of the impending collision of
My dream tablet laptop for 2012
Smartphones, tablets, and tablet-laptop hybrids are not going to destroy the Windows PC market in the next year. But all signs are pointing toward tablet computers becoming full alternatives to netbooks and other lightweight computers. They will not be able to match the intense processing power, multitasking capabilities, or hard drive space of traditional
As a writer, I’m looking for a laptop that is portable, enables me to write and do basic productivity tasks like printing, has enough processing power not to slow me down in a pinch, has enough memory to store some media and text files, gets fantastic battery life, and can connect to the net as fast and cheaply as possible. I’m guessing that many people want the same thing from a low-priced, portable computer. On my off time, I also like the idea of a tablet that lets me play Cut the Rope, check out a quick site, read some email, and watch Netflix. At the speed things are moving, I’m hopeful that within a year, I’ll be able to buy that device for $400-500 and walk away a happy geek.
Competition breeds innovation, and the consumer electronics industry is more competitive than I’ve ever seen it. Anything could happen in the months ahead. In 2011 we’ve learned that Windows is not too old to undergo a radical change, smartphones can do just about anything, PCs can become tablets, phones can power
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