Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The year of the tablet?

Wired has decided that 2010 will be the year of the tablet, and it's arguable that the multi-touch additions to upcoming Snow Leopard make a tablet an obvious step for Apple. Despite that, others are claiming that after seven years of torturous rumours and speculation the predicted tablet from Apple just doesn't exist. Whatever the truth of the thing we can confidently predict that over the next few months the rumour mill will be running at high speed.

Sitting on the sidelines, nobody tells me anything. But something is up. The rumours surrounding the Apple tablet have a curious firmness about them, much like the later part of the two years of rumours leading up to the original iPhone launch back at the start of 2007.

However having used a tablet to try and do actual work, I tend to agree that tablets aren't mainstream. But then netbooks aren't mainstream and they're selling rather well, even I bought one, or as it happens two of them.

Dell at least may be deliberately targeting their rumoured tablet at the niche e-book reader market, and may well even offer their tablet for free with a contract for "one or more digital media subscriptions", which would be interesting. The Kindle is selling well, so perhaps it's even a sustainable model. Although Amazon at least aren't giving away the hardware as a loss leader.

When it comes down to it I'd be less interested in the rumours of an Apple tablet if it wasn't for the iPhone. The iPhone was the first mobile device I've ever owned, and I've owned a fair few, where I could check my email comfortably. That's made a big difference, and it's because the iPhone is not a phone, it just happens to be able to make phone calls. So maybe what I really need is a well designed tablet?

Update: Of course there are some people that are just pulling figures out of the air when it comes to the rumoured Apple tablet...


  1. The difference between tablets and netbooks, IMO, is that netbooks are cheap. Now that you can't buy a Palm without a phone, Palms have no low end. For me, it's a deal killer. The Palm is dead. Tablets have been around for a bit. If they must be high end machines, they'll go nowhere.

    In 1995, i had a 486/sx25 subnotebook. I used plip for networking. That's a laplink cable hooked up to the parallel port. That meant i had netorking without a card, and for cheap. It had 16 MB RAM, 170 MB disk, 640x480 grayscale screen. It went 5+ hours on batteries. I had Linux stripped down to give me 70 MB disk for my stuff. It had apache, emacs, gcc, perl, a browser - everything i wanted. And, i ran X windows. But try doing that now. One would be hard pressed indeed to jam all that onto such a machine today. But, we don't need to. A machine with 512 MB RAM, and many GB of disk is cheap today, and very capable. And that's why netbooks can work. But we have to exercise some real discipline to make sure software bloat doesn't kill the platform.

    1. The rumours surrounding the Apple tablet have a curious firmness generic products information about them, much like the later part of the two years of rumours leading up to the original iPhone launch back at the start of 2007.

  2. I'm not convinced by tablet PCs. They seem to offer the worst of all worlds at the moment, although I suppose Apple could do some brilliant thing like it did with the iPhone to change all that.

    The iPhone is great because it will fit in your pocket, a tablet won't. If it doesn't fit in my pocket then is a tablet any better than a laptop? No, of course it isn't.

  3. I assume "Dell Tablet" doesn't refer to... Well, Dell's existing convertible tablet they've been selling for a couple of years..?

    I used a tabletpc for the duration of my ill (health) fated Physics degree attempt. Matt Lockyear hated it, but it was probably the only thing that kept my work organised to at least hang in there till I couldn't survive it any more. It's great, because I can write and sketch on it with subpixel resolution (Using xournal on linux - Kubuntu, if I remember) and then save those notes, export them, annotate homework PDF's to better understand my instructions, etc.etc.etc - I can't do that on my smaller devices.

    I also use a kindle. The lack of international character support, or serious academic content; really hampers what would otherwise be a fantastic student device.

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