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Time for a tablet
Contrary to what many might think, tablets are not new in the human society. In the era before Christ, they were used to carry messages - at that time, of course, they were made of stone and you needed a chisel to carve your message on them. Then paper and scrolls came along and tablets became associated more with medicine than communication. They resurfaced in the 1990s when some manufacturers came out with gadgets that one could communicate with by writing and without having to punch keys. Then they quietly receded into the background, overshadowed by other portable work options like notebooks and smartphones that seemed easier to use and cheaper to procure.
Now the tablet has returned. With a boom. As with touchscreen phones, it was the fruity named company from Cupertino, California, that was responsible. Just as touchscreen phones were nothing new but were made popular by Apple's iPhone, the tablet suddenly was thrust into centrestage by the arrival of the iPad in March this year. Some tech pundits complained that it was nothing more than a larger iPhone or iPod touch, but as consumers lined up to purchase it, manufacturers got busy working to launch their own tablets. In no time, almost every big name in the business - from Dell and HP to Sharp and Motorola - was talking about its own iPad-killer.
Gartner estimates 10. 5 million tablet computers will be shipped out in 2010, a number expected to shoot up exponentially in the coming years. And this week when Research in Motion, the Canadabased makers of BlackBerry, took the wraps off its quaintly-named PlayBook, it was getting hard to deny that we were moving into the tablet era.
TOP OF THE POP BRIGADE
To the tablet faithful, the arrival of tablets is synonymous with technology becoming easier and more accessible. Just as the iPhone took complicated menus and keystrokes out of the smartphone equation, tablets are lighter (generally around half a kilo) and smaller than conventional computers. And thanks to their touchscreen interface, they are easier to use, allowing users to make their way around by touching icons instead of punching buttons.
Most tablets tend to cost just as much as a highend smartphone while providing similar functions on a much larger screen. In fact, many professionals have switched from using smartphones to using a simple phone and a tablet - there is more space for activities like browsing the internet, watching videos, playing games and typing out documents and spreadsheets.
THE KILLER GADGET
Tablets pose a threat to the netbook-laptop segment too, thanks to their portability and the fact that many of them come with inbuilt data connectivity - in simple English, they can access the web via an internal connection. Devices like the OlivePad can browse the net at 3G speeds, saving the user the need to carry a modem or be near a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Significantly, their larger screens make them excellent options for video conferencing - something that is rather difficult on the smaller screens of phones and is not the easiest thing to do on the move on notebooks. Top that off with the fact that most tablets offer battery life that is in the vicinity of five to ten hours and you can see why so many people are turning to them.
That said, there are those who view tablets with a certain deal of apprehension. The biggest complaint against them is their limited storage as compared to notebooks - even a basic netbook has more storage than an iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
And while the absence of a physical keyboard might make it easier for many to use a tablet - there is no need to remember keystrokes - it starts to hurt when one has to do a lot of typing, such as write a report or make a blog entry (handwriting recognition seldom works as smoothly in real life as it does in advertisments). Even the data connectivity edge wears thin when one considers the spotty network coverage and the relative absence of 3G connectivity in the nation.
Speaking of connectivity, linking tablets to accessories like printers, cameras and scanners remains a pain, making them pretty much standalone affairs, unless connected to the internet. And with the increasing screen size and resolution of smartphones, many people feel they have big enough screens to view content as it is. There has also been considerable confusion caused by the different operating systems on tablets in the market, most of which do not say hello to each other - a far cry from the relative comfort of using Windows on a computer!
Critics point out that, for all their popularity, tablets fall somewhere between a smartphone and a notebook, and are just another gadget to carry for an already overburdened-by-tech consumer. The truth about tablets, as usual, is something that is between these two extremes. They are not the wonder that their supporters make them out to be but neither are they the useless extravagances that their critics claim they are.
It might be premature to herald the arrival of the tablet era, but it is surely on its way, as tablets are only going to improve. Of course, so are notebooks and smartphones. All of which should spell more products, more features and lower prices.
TABS IN THE MARKET
The tablet that started off the frenzy is still going strong, riding high on its apps and sheer performance, although people are already clamouring for a new version with the retina display and dual cameras
Already considered a rank mis-step by many, this 5-inch tablet was considered closer to a smartphone than a tablet, thanks to its relatively small form factor. The fact that it ran an old version of Android did not help matters. We are already looking for its successor
The first internet tablet to be launched in India has not really hit the market yet, but has the specs - if not the looks - to create quite a buzz, especially now that it has been updated to the latest version of Android, 2. 2
Samsung Galaxy Tab:
Considered by many to be the first real challenge to the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab comes with a brilliant, sleek design, a snappy processor, runs Android 2. 2 and has dual cameras. It is expected in the market any day, although many expect it to come with a hefty price tag
The surprise packet of the Indian tablet market scores high on the value for money charts by serving up an 8-inch resistive screen, Wi-Fi connectivity and 667 HHz processor in a sleek hood, with a price tag of just Rs 8, 995. Tablet for masses? We think so
COMING SOON. . .
It has a seveninch display, a dual core processor and a new operating system which is more touch-friendly than anything seen on a BlackBerry. However, it will be out in the market only in 2011 and you can access internet only through Wi-Fi
Is this going to be the first tablet to run Android 3. 0? The rumour market believes so, but details are sketchy, although most people are convinced that it will come with a 7-inch display and a very powerful processor
HP's foray into the tablet market made headlines at the CES 2010 show earlier this year and although there are some who believe that it will run WebOS rather than Windows 7, there can be no doubting that in terms of specifications, it is going to be a powerhouse
A special 10. 1-inch LCD screen, a powerful processor, 16-hour battery life, Android running under the hood - the Adam could be the first major tech gadget from India. . . when it comes to the market
THE $35 TABLET:
It runs Android and is being developed by some of the brightest brains in India. Yes, it has only a resistive display and a less than superfast processor, but still, at $35, it could be the cheapest tablet in the world. Expected next year, although cynics are still telling us that it will come to naught
The existing edition has sold thousands of units, but people are already buzzing about how the next version of the iPad will have two cameras for video calling and that magnificent retina display
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