One thing has always remained constant in the tablet marketplace – we’re waiting. For years we waited for tablets to hit the mass market, and then we waited for a competitor to arrive that would do the format justice (beyond the watered down experience offered by the iPad). It appears that 2011 will be the year that we finally stop waiting and finally get the avalanche of tablet products that push the industry forward at a breakneck speed.
And probably the biggest wait right now for both us and a large number of manufacturers out there is the one for Honeycomb – Google’s long awaited tablet-ready Android iteration. Yes, there are Android tablets on the market, but in a market struggling to catch up to the 7 figure head start of Apple, a true tablet-focused option is necessary. With some tweaks, both Froyo and Gingerbread can get the job done, but Honeycomb is poised to be the OS of choice for many soon to be released tablets.
Far from being a secret, Honeycomb is simply on hold with an as-of-yet unannounced release date. We do know, however, that there are a handful of new devices on the slate for the next 6 months that will show off the new OS. The biggest profile of these is set to be the Motorola Xoom (as trademark applications recently revealed the name to be), and possibly a second device from the electronics giant to follow shortly after. However, it is not the only device we’re waiting on. Toshiba has announced its own Honeycomb tablet (yet unnamed) powered by the Tegra 2 and apparently only waiting for the Honeycomb release from Google.
Right now, we don’t really know how these devices will turn out (though Motorola’s recent Droid successes point toward a solid entry into the field and many are still leery of Toshiba’s failure in the catastrophic Folio tablet release). However, with CES only a few days away, the odds are that we’ll see significantly more devices hitting the rounds as manufacturers announce a huge number of devices waiting on Google’s newest OS.
But, for this to truly be the year of the tablet, we need to see other companies step up big as well. Already, we’re waiting carefully for Microsoft’s big announcement in their CES keynote. Last year’s lacklustre tablet showing was disappointing, but Ballmer and co. are promising a new line-up of Windows 7 options, and some people are hoping for a little more beyond that. Then there are the newcomers including a handful of new Meego tablets propagating the industry, RIM’s Playbook, and dozens of technical advancements including Intel’s new SSD solutions, the new APU processor from AMD and our first looks at Pixel Qi displays. And while we won’t see it at CES, we can’t forget the elephant in the room – the iPad 2, likely to be shown off at the end of the month in an Apple only event in California.
The next four weeks look to be a huge boon for an industry segment that finally got off the ground in 2010. So, while we’ve been waiting for a while, it looks like we’re finally about to see something truly impressive. Stay tuned in the days to come for my thoughts on all the news out of CES in Las Vegas.