Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Tablets in 2011 - What to expect

The Apple iPad 2 is set to be released in spring 2011
Twelve months ago barely anyone had ever heard of the PC tablet and the market for them was nonexistent.

However, this all changed when Apple announced the iPad and now PC tablets are amongst the hottest consumer electronics out there.

The main difference between the iPad and previous attempts at tablet PCs was that Apple didn't try to shove a full computer operating system into their device.

In effect, the iPad was simply a really big iPod touch, but this didn't put consumers off. For everyone that loves tech and gadgets the iPad was the must have device of 2010.

Times have changed since then, and now nearly every single consumer electronics developer is either busy launching or developing their very own PC tablet. So what does 2011 have in store for tablet loving consumers?

Apple iPad 2
Our guide begins with perhaps the most anticipated tablet of 2011, the Apple iPad 2. It's pretty much confirmed that the iPad 2 will have front and rear facing cameras. Apple made a big deal of its 'Facetime' feature on the iPhone 4, so it's likely that the iPad 2 will also have this function.

It's also likely that the iPad 2 will have a considerably faster processor when compared with the original iPad and the iPhone 4. This will allow multitasking on the iPad 2, but perhaps more notably, will also allow Apple to increase the resolution.

The biggest question mark that still remains over the iPad is whether it will be made available in different sizes. With many competing devices adopting the 7 inch screen, will Apple offer a smaller version of the iPad 2?

The iPad 2 is expected to be released this spring.

RIM Blackberry PlayBook
Another tablet that has been receiving a lot of attention over the previous months is the Blackberry PlayBook, and that's not surprising. Not only is it the first PC tablet device to spring out of the Blackberry factory, but it also sports some of the most impressive hardware specs seen on any device of this kind.

With a 1GHz dual-core CPU, 1GB of RAM and a pair of cameras (front and rear facing), the PlayBook certainly ticks all the right boxes.

Much like the recently launched Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Blackberry PlayBook will feature s seven inch screen, making it smaller and lighter than the iPad 2, which is a good thing, assuming you don't value a large screen above all.

However, hardware is only one thing, and Blackberry's Tablet OS will have to prove itself against the likes of the Apple and Google operating systems.

The PlayBook is pencilled in for an early 2011 launch in the US, and a mid 2011 launch in Europe.

Android 3.0 Honeycomb
In recent months we've seen a glut of Android based tablet devices, but Android 2.2 isn't ideally suited for a PC tablet.

Although Samsung may have done an excellent job on making the Android 2.2 OS work with the Galaxy tab, the fact still remains that we're going to have to wait until the days of Android 3.0 for a true PC tablet experience.

Information about the Android 3.0 OS is scarce, but what we do know is that it will be called 'Honeycomb' and will be a very tablet friendly operating system.

Google's Andy Rubin recently showed of a prototype Motorola tablet running the Honeycomb OS. With Google already willing to show new hardware running Honeycomb, we suspect that the gap between versions 2.3 and 3.0 of Android will be minimal. We could see Honeycomb rolled out in early 2011, maybe even ahead of the iPad 2.

If Honeycomb does really enhance the PC tablet experience, life could get hard for Apple. But that said, the iPad has already won the pockets of millions of consumers, and these consumers are likely to look no further than the iPad 2 whilst shopping for the latest PC tablet.

Last year the only tablet rumour that was really competing with the iPad was the HP Slate, which was discussed constantly in the tech press and shown off by HP on many occasions.

It was unsurprising to see HP with a tablet device, since the company had produced tablet PCs years ago when Microsoft were pushing the concept. It was equally unsurprising that the HP Slate was set to run Windows 7 as its operating system.

However, after the announcement of the iPad by Apple, it all went quiet in the HP camp, until eventually rumours that HP had scrapped the Slate began to emerge. Then, HP bough Palm along with all of its technology, including the WebOS operating system, as used by the Palm Pre smartphone.

HP has now confirmed that it will be releasing a WebOS based PC tablet in early 2011. How early is still unclear, but a pre iPad 2 launch certainly would't hurt it.

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