One of the most discussed trends at CES 2010 was the Tablet PC.
Every single hardware manufacturer I have met there has announced or will announce a Tablet PC in the near future.
From an industry point of view, tablets are not new to the market. They have been sitting there for such a long time with very low market success due to several factors. First of all they have always been expensive, bulky, almost unusable a with a very very small battery life.
Apple is rumored to announce a tablet PC by the end of January, and yesterday a France Telecom/Orange told the interviewer that this may be a reality for their customers (Read and watch a video on this on Techcrunch).
For the very first time the whole industry has not reacted to a product release but to a rumor. It would be very funny to hear Steve Jobs saying: “One last thing… I am sure that you heard about Apple releasing a tablet PC, well, we were kidding.”.
It seems that the whole industry does not want to go through the pain they suffered from iPhone announcements in the past. They want to be ready for whatever the Apple tablet will be. I hope they will be able to.
Ok, this is interpretation that is more close to sci-fi than to a real business case.
The real thing is that now the technology is there for this kind of products.
In the first place there are faster enough chipset out there to make good products and make full use of big displays. We can now design slim and light tablets compared to what we were able to do in the past. A huge variety of local area connectivity and wide area connectivity is available from the same chipset. Battery life can be brought to a satisfying level up to 10-12 hours and the price may be low enough to compete in the consumer space.
Last but not least, Operating Systems. There is a huge choice of operating systems available for use with this kind of devices. Windows Mobile, Android, Linux and so many other. Processors are fast enough to cope with the needs of these guys.
Android seems to be the preferred choice of most of the companies out there. It seems a good choice to me even if I think that Google may want to push Chrome OS for these devices. Unfortunately we will not be able to see Chrome OS before Q4 next year, maybe a little bit early and that’s too far for a product that a vendor may be willing to release now.
It is quite clear to everybody that the success of this product will not be hardware, but software, user experience and usability. None of those operating systems are at the same level in this regard as shown by Apple on the iPhone. There is a lot of work to do.
The stylus is definitely dead. This is a matter of fact. If you look at the iPhone it is quite clear that the ability to use the device with your fingers, and in a very effective way, is key to the device success. For the time being there is no one out there, apart from Apple, that has been able to deliver such usability at the same level of refinement.
I think that releasing such a product without a good and usable operating system and a great service proposition, whatever it will be (e.g. multimedia content, e-books), is going to be a failure.
It is quite clear to everybody that Apple has great usability, great content in iTunes and seems perfectly fit to make a success out of this products. For all of the others it will be the old usual catch up.
The photo in this post if from nDevilTV.