Submitted by Brian Sander
From PC Magazine
10 Reasons Why Tablets Will Succeed
Tablet PCs haven’t exactly set the world on fire, but Apple, Microsoft, TechCrunch, and others are about to change that.
Tablets are suddenly the talk of the tech space, despite the fact that none of the major rumored and actual products have actually hit the market. Apple, Microsoft, and CrunchPad are all, apparently, gearing up to deliver brand new devices, though it’s not clear when or if any of them will arrive. Yet, their very absence appears to be fueling the excitement for a category that, if we’re being honest here, has had a pretty spotty past.
I’ve noticed how virtually everyone—those who write about these products and those that are actually producing them—are going to great pains to call them “tablets” and not “tablet PCs.” Why is that? Why are people so afraid to call them tablet PCs or tablet computers? Let’s let history be our guide.
Tablet PCs emerged in the first part of this century, roughly 8 years after the first wave of pen computers crashed and burned in the mid ’90s. Those very early products, from companies like Go and NEC, were essentially monochrome LCD panels that could accept some pen-driven gestures and even handwriting. They ran on proprietary operating systems, were woefully underpowered, had terrible screens, and were ignored by the general public.
In 2001, pen computing reemerged under the tablet PC umbrella with a new champion: Microsoft‘s Bill Gates. He showed off a prototype at Comdex in 2001. Unlike previous pen computers, this one had the guts of a laptop. The OS was the familiar, if augmented, Windows XP, and the digitizing technology came courtesy of Wacom. Gates made some bold pronouncements back then about the future of tablet and convertible PCs.
In a 2002 interview with InformationWeek, Gates said many laptop users would want one “right away,” adding, “By the end of 2003, you can expect to see one-third to one-half of the ultraportable market move to the tablet PC.”
Microsoft did everything it could to excite the public and developers about the opportunities and benefits of tablet PCs. It launched an SDK and held app development contests. It had major partners building keyboard-less tablet PCs and convertibles, the latter of which looked exactly like laptops, except you could flip the screen around so it faced up and fold the back of the screen right on top of the keyboard. Ultimately, though, tablets never rose above a niche market—popular in inventory departments and especially the healthcare and education markets, but marginalized everywhere else.
Based on this history, you might assume that this third coming of the tablet would be equally doomed. You’d be wrong. Things are different now. There are a number of technology advancements and changes in computing behavior that could spell success for this latest generation of portable devices. Here are a few:
Back in 2002, Bill Gates insisted that we had portables that could function for a full work day on one charge. I never saw it. Early tablet PCs were notoriously hot and drained batteries faster than your average laptop. Today, we have netbooks and, now, CULV (consumer ultra-low voltage) laptops that sip battery life and can run 8 to 10 hours on a charge. Tablets should easily run a day or more on a single charge.
Better Display Technologies and Options
Early tablet PCs had two display choices: monochrome or color LCD. Because the backlighting was always fluorescent, displays could only be so thin. The first monochrome pen computers were nearly an inch thick, and early tablets were usually at least as thick as standard laptops, which meant they weren’t very comfortable to hold. Today’s tablet makers can choose from thinner LCD technologies—those powered by LED lights, even thinner OLED displays, or e-ink technologies. LED backlighting allows for thin, super-bright displays that consume less power than traditional fluorescent backlighting. OLEDs are thinner and eat even less power, but tend to be prohibitively expensive at larger sizes. E-ink, which has been popularized by the recent flood of eReaders, differs from LCDs in a number of important ways: It’s a reflective technology and needs no backlighting and, once an image is generated, it needs little power to maintain it on the screen. That said, e-ink is still impractical for the needs of a portable computer screen where images will change many times a second