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Thursday, 27 January 2011

Tablet Renaissance - 11 Items to Check

Tablet computing is reaching a vortex with Consumer Electronics vendors, pushing them into the market more enthusiastically than ever. The concept of the Tablet was tried more than once earlier (termed Tablet/PC), deriving designs from the Laptop/PC. Those attempts had mixed results, but no roaring successes. The HP Tablet/PC image on the right is sweet memory of what looked like an oversized Compaq/HP/iPaq. With new Mobile Microprocessors, the advent of platforms like Android, the game has undoubtedly changed. The Laptop/PC itself has evolved into the more portable and light-weight Netbook. We would quickly associate the term "tablet" to Apple's much hyped iPad.

Yet, will people take to using tablets? Practical usability of Tablets would depend on
  1. Size, form factor of the Tablet
  2. Interface usability - display readability, touch screens, keypads, voice recognition
  3. Weight of the Tablet (People hate lugging heavy slates.)
  4. Battery Life (surviving longer without a recharge.)
  5. Connectivity options (3G, WiFi, WiMax, USB, ethernet ...)
  6. Memory Storage (Internal Storage, Expansion Options, Maximum Limits)
  7. Application availability (Application stores, reasonable variety of options.)
  8. Utility and Productivity value (Business and Entertainment use.)
  9. Freedom to customize, theme and personalize
  10. Availability of Accessories (Docks, Sleeves)
  11. After Sales Support and Services!
As the market is highly nascent, 'size' is something that has not crystallised yet. Devices with display sizes varying from 5" to 11", with/without keypads or touchpads are available. The popularity of the Amazon Kindle (as an eBook reader) seemed to have triggered a Domino effect in creation and commercialisation of Tablets. Comparisons and theories on whether Apple iPad started the Tablet craze or the eBook readers did are abundant.

I find the form factor of tablets, a little heavier to carry around; while my laptop is still remains indispensable for my work. Screen size definitely improves readability, and the iPad probably got it just right in terms of readability.

I do find the tablet useful for
  1. Quick information lookup and search
  2. Updating a microblog
  3. Checking email
  4. Reading documents, eBooks
  5. Getting Navigation Assistance
  6. Testing out mobile applications
  7. An alternative when I cannot carry my Laptop
I still find a few issues that would have to be sorted out, as the devices become more commonly used:
  • Charger compatibility and standardisation
  • Video output for quick use as a presentation tool
  • Easy solutions to carry a Tablet
  • Information security and privacy concerns
  • Seamless and dynamic network connectivity/migration
  • Pricing of Tablets, upgrades and accessories is yet to settle down
  • Dependence on the "Cloud Infrastructure" is heavy, but is Cloud infrastructure failsafe?
Solutions do exist for the items I have listed, but they still remain open in search of better solutions. The Tablets overlap an application space taken up by smartphones, and once served by the PDA. Their advent in the markets is more an evolution of the PDA (into the Smartphone, and now the Tablet.) Players who were successful earlier, like "Palm" have found it difficult to keep up with the momentum of the smartphone era. Players who have succeeded in the Smartphone era like "Research In Motion" (RIM) are worried about their survival in the upcoming Tablet era. New entrants come in with lots of innovations. The "Notion Ink", for example, (image, left) on one variant claims 15 hours of battery life. Will such claims hold when the devices are put to real use?