Sunday, December 05, 2010

Always Searching for the Next Big Feature

Now that more than a handful of new tablets have hit the market in 2010, the shift in talk has turned from X vs. Y discussions about which tablet is better (usually with the iPad involved somehow) toward how the next generation of these devices will stack up against their current iterations.

We all know the iPad is a runaway success, despite it’s less than ideal standards. The Galaxy Tab is also turning out impressive numbers, especially in the US where it has sold more than 1 million units as of a couple days ago. Other devices like the Dell Inspiron Duo, HP Slate and Viewsonic G are all hitting the market before the holidays and more are prepping for release early next year.

But, you know as well as I do that when it comes to technology, the hype for a new device only lasts as long as it’s unavailable. After release and a few weeks of sales tracking, the talk turns to when the next version of that device will be available and how much it will add to blow away all previous models.

Of course, most of the conversations right now seem to focus on what Apple will do to compete with the onslaught of competitors. Sure, Apple has sold more than 4 million iPads, but how will they maintain that industry lead in the iPad 2? Not much is known (other than the highly rumoured camera and a probable processor upgrade), but I’m sure we’ll see more of the same halo-device style upgrades that Apple is known for.

But, what about the rest? What major features are on the horizon in this industry that smaller companies are willing to experiment with in a bid to carve out a share of this market? In 2010, we saw the release of a dual-boot Windows 7 and Android tablet in the Tega V2, something that changed how many people think about the functionality of a tablet PC. The Dell Inspiron Duo is offering a dual mode netbook/tablet experience for those that still feel the urge to type on occasion – definitely not a new idea in touch technology, but a welcome one in the current tablet arms race.

In 2011, Acer has announced its 10 inch and 7 inch tablets with dual core processing, front and back facing cameras (a feature I think we’ll see serious traction on), HDMI out, and multiple form factors (as Samsung has discovered, not everyone wants a 10-inch tablet). Other devices are touting potential phone service, and the first wave of 4G enabled tablets is likely to start popping up by the end of 2011 with most major network upgrades starting to go into effect.

What do you think? What major upgrades and technology introductions do you think will drive the tablet industry in the next 6-12 months? Will we actually see game changing set of features from the iPad, or more of the same closed off iOS environment we’ve grown used to? And will devices with bigger and better features get a foothold in the industry any time soon?


Tom Young said...

The iPad appeals, but falls short of what I'd spend money on; especially $500+. It would have to: provide at least a B5 LED backlit LCD screen; ultra light weight; consumer replaceable long-life battery; universal e-reader app; wi-fi, 3/4G, duplex communication (cellphone), and camera; provide scalable memory, SS storage, the usual port configurations; universal docking; no bloatware; universal OS. The last two are a stretch, I know, but one can always hope.

Hugo Gaston Ortega said...

I love it Tom! This is exactly what I wanted from the post, i.e. some conversation. Thanks for sharing.

Regarding my thoughts - I like the idea of the B5 LED and the universal OS and no bloatware (hate that stuff!)

Tom Young said...

The tablets seem to be heading in the direction of big cell phones instead of small computers, and as such, they will be less than useful to me. Do you see any of these manufacturers breaking away from the pack?

Hugo Gaston Ortega said...

Hey Tom,

There are a few which I really like, i.e. Toshiba (and they're Libretto range I am a fan of) and from the smaller guys I love the TabletKiosk range (these guys will have a new 12" slate in Q1 enxt year which will rock this world!)

cstevens said...

There is a need for "prosumer" TabletPCs. 1024 x 600 is too low a resolution for many business applications. If you have Win 7 you need an active digitizer. Ditch the keyboard. Low power and light weight ar sexy, but there needs to be a middle ground between the toys and bussiness grade true TabletPCs at twice the price of cooresponding laptops.

Hugo Gaston Ortega said...

Dear cstevens,

Thanks for the great input. I lvoe the idea of Digitizer too and the resolution, and most poeple dono't get this, is so important too! 10" is still my favourite size and 4:3 aspect ratio make it best (but 1280 x 800 is also a res I love). Like you I think the costs needs to come down but I also know that the components in the consumer devices are not adequate for that in business once, hence I'm willing to pay a slight premium - but it would be nice to see the premium reduced. :-)

cstevens said...

I guess I am in the prosumer market. I use my tablet more in a portable device that a mobile device. At home and work I am usually docked with external monitor, keyboard and mouse. Of mobile for a long time I usually have access to power or can swap batteries. I use a Gateway E295 (14") as a desktop replacement even running AutoDesk Civil 3d 2009. I should upgrade to 4 GM of Ram but have been hoping to upgrade the entire system. I would prefer a slate, but they tend to be so tuned for mobility that they sacrafice power for portability. Motion does a pretty good job, but prices reflect that they are a niche product. It's a vicious circle - small manufacture - niche product - high price - limited visibility - no way to appeal to broader audience - still a niche product.

The HP Slate could change this. (Under powerd for my take, but screen resolution is a major problem - for me.)

I am willing to pay an appropriate premium. Acer and Gateway attempted consumer/prosumer TabletPCs but were not succesful. As I sse it there is a mrket for a slate style active digitizer (pen) midrange Laptop replacement. The main difference would be no keyboard, no tricky hinge and a sompler case (one piece) The active digitizer would be the only real additional cost so a huge premium would not be necessary. I would add memory and use a standard hard drive over a SSD. is