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The Slate of the Tablet

Apple NewtonThe tablet market is moving fast this year and it’s hard to keep up. So here’s the State Slate of the Tablet.

Apple iPad running iPhone OS

Since the death of the Newton a long time ago there have been rumors that Apple was developing a new tablet. Steve Jobs finally announced the iPad earlier this year which, in case you’ve been on an extended remote vacation, is Apple iPad theONbutton landscapeavailable now running iPhone OS. It is available in WiFi only or WiFi+3G, the latter being a smart choice to get the most out of the iPad (pictured). The iPad uses the same App Store as the iPhone and iPod Touch. The iPad can run iPhone apps but dedicated iPad apps look best.

We now either own one, want one or don’t know what it’s for. Personally I didn’t know what it was for, then wanted one and lined up on launch day to own one. I now know exactly what it’s for, which is around 75% of all my Internet and media consumption. The chances are that if a website doesn’t work on the iPad, I’ll find another website or better still, an app.

Limitations include the iPad’s lack of Flash support, no easily accessible file explorer and a beautiful screen which is difficult to read outdoors. Strengths include ten hour battery life, loads of great apps and the ability to enjoy good Internet content without having to trawl the whole Internet to find it.

PC tablets running Windows

Windows tablets have existed ever since the release of Windows XP Tablet Edition years ago. These early tablets were typically ultraportable laptops with touchscreens that swiveled to convert the device into a tablet. They used resistiveArchos 9touchscreens and required a stylus for input, or a very precise fingernail.

The current crop of Windows 7 tablets, spearheaded by the likes of the Archos 9 (pictured), are certainly far lighter than their ancestors but the weaknesses remain. Notably the resistive screens and stylus or trackpad input method. Unfortunately there are just too many aspects of Windows 7 usage that require precise interaction to allow tablets to really exploit the OS.

Multitouch gestures have been built into Windows 7 but as soon as you try using an application like Microsoft Office on a Windows tablet, it is beaten in usability by iWork for iPad which was created from the ground up for tablet usage. Battery life is also an issue on Windows tablets which mainly now use the Intel Atom processor. This is a very power efficient CPU but real life battery usage on these tablets tends to top out at 2-3 hours.

Android

The Google and Open Handset Alliance backed Android OS is making a big play for tablet market share. Or perhaps I should say lots of little plays, because like the Windows tablet market the Android one is made up of a gazillion of Dell Streakemerging models. Unlike the Windows market however, the Android devices we’ve seen so far are all running slightly different versions of Android.

Personally I feel that while Android will overcome the obstacle of fragmentation in the smartphone market, I believe it will greatly hinder the platform in the tablet market. Most users ultimately don’t care if they can’t run this or that app on their phone as long as the device runs a core set of important apps. With tablets it’s different because they are perceived as far more capable devices than phones due to their screen size. If a user tries to download an app which only works on Android 2.1 onto a 2.0 device she purchase that day, frustration will mount. The fragmentation of Android builds on tablets may hold back the rise of the platform if left unchecked.

In terms of actual Android tablet devices in the marketplace, we have seen the JooJoo come and be poorly received. That was the most high profile launch until the recent Dell Streak (pictured above), which is a small tablet and large smartphone wrapped up in a heavy, less than pocket friendly chassis. There was a ton of Android tablets announced at Computex last week running various builds of the OS, which seemed to reinforce the idea that fragmentation is the biggest issue facing this platform.

Palm Pre PlusWeb OS by Palm

HP recently acquired Palm and the jury is out on whether the HP Slate, which was due to be launched imminently running Windows 7, will be shelved in favor of a HP Web OS tablet. Those who have used a Palm Pre (pictured) or Pixi may feel that Web OS could be the foundation of a very useful tablet interface. We’ll just have to wait to see what HP has in store for us on this front.

Neil Berman

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Jun 6, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palm: Savior of the HP Slate?

The rumors of the premature demise of the HP Slate have left me with mixed emotions.

I had been looking forward to seeing if HP could develop its Touchsmart software to bring a viable Windows based competitor to the tablet market.  Recently however my time with the Apple iPad have left me grave doubts that Touchsmart advances could bring the HP Slate anywhere close to its most prominent competitor.  Even major enhancements to HP’s software would most likely lead to a HTC Sense over Windows Mobile 6.5 situation where a pretty, and functional, front end covers a less touch friendly but useful operating system.

HP’s acquisition of Palm obviously point towards development of both phone and tablet platforms using Palm’s WebOS software so, personally, I would be surprised to hear of HP engaging in significant further tablet development using Windows 7.  Speaking as a Windows 7 user since January 2009 and someone who attended its CES launch event, I simply do not see it as a strong competitor to the iPad for mainstream users.  This is different to OSX vs Windows.  Tablets need a completely finger friendly user environment, for all operations.

Even though Windows 7 offers so much more power than WebOS, Palm’s offering offers more relevance for mainstream tablets at this time.  Similarly Windows Phone 7 in my view looks likely to be a better fit for tablets as well.  There is really no need to squeeze all of Windows 7 into a tablet for Main Street.  The result is a large amount of unusable applications for most use-cases, poor battery life and long startup times.

Just in case there’s any confusion, the current market benchmark is thousands of high quality touch only apps, ten hours of real life battery duration and instant-on startup.  These are not nice-to-haves, these are the qualities of the best selling device in this sector.  Aspiring competitors who are considering entering this market must believe that they can improve upon these qualities, or they should not waste shareholder value in developing a competing product.

If the rumors of HP laying its Windows 7 based Slate to rest in favor of a WebOS based ‘Hurricane’ come to fruition, that’s probably a good thing.  It’s also not necessarily a bad thing for Microsoft.  Windows 7 is a great desktop, laptop and netbook operating system; probably the best I’ve used, all things considered.  Microsoft should look to preserve that reputation and produce the right products for the right platforms.  That could mean giving OEMs the right to use Windows Phone 7 in tablet development to avoid WebOS taking hold alongside Android as the viable competitors to the iPad.

Neil Berman

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May 14, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teknica episode 6: “The Glory Days” – Palm, iPad secrecy and Mac vs PC security

The latest episode of Teknica delves into the secrecy surrounding iPads given to developers, the fall of Palm and Mac vs PC security.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Mar 21, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, News, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Today in 2015: The Big Three rule the smartphone market

This article is a fictional work of my overactive imagination depicting how the smartphone market might appear in 2015.  Don’t count on it turning out this way…

Ah, how time flies!  It feels like only a few months ago that Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 Series and fans lined around the block for Apple’s iPhone Evolution, yet five whole years have passed since then.  During these telling years the smartphone market has truly evolved.  Vertical platform integration, wider corporate adoption and growth in the tablet market have been kind to Microsoft, Apple and Google at the expense of the RIM, Nokia and Palm.

With the benefit of hindsight it should have seemed obvious that as vertical platform integration improved, the smartphone market would come to resemble what used to be called the desktop computing market.  In the last five years the Microsoft, Google and Apple smartphone platforms developed such successful …continue reading

Mar 15, 2010 Posted by | Analysis | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

theONbutton@CES – Palm Pre wins CNET Best In Show

palm-pre

Could this be Palm’s come-back moment?  Click the images for close-ups.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jan 10, 2009 Posted by | CES, Mobile, News | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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