Tablets trigger sea change in computing
New models from Hewlett-Packard and other makers will challenge Apple's iPad.
A number of companies are putting finishing touches on new tablets, and some beat what the iPad has to offer. That's why some Apple observers think the company must debut an iPad 2 and perhaps even an iPad 3 this year just to keep up.
All of which is shaping 2011 as the start of a new chapter in personal computing. By year's end, we'll have a number of really good tablets to choose from, and that will trigger changes across the computing sector.
Tablets are lighter and cheaper than traditional computers, but they have fewer abilities and less storage. They can do enough, however, to make us less reliant on laptops and desktops -- categories that could see a drop in sales. Businesses will have new computing options for their employees, particularly with new tablets coming out from Research In Motion (RIMM), Motorola (MOT) and Hewlett-Packard (HP).
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"The post-PC era has started, and the iPad blazed the trail," writes John Gruber at Daring Fireball. In fact, it seems the only company that doesn't have a tablet is the one that has talked about making one for years: Microsoft (MSFT). (Microsoft owns and publishes MSN Money.)
But will the iPad remain the leader? That's a big question. Tech insiders are raving about HP's new TouchPad (pictured), announced this week at a company event. The TouchPad has a number of features that the iPad doesn't, including a camera and better photo options. And you'll be able to transfer websites, phone calls and songs to HP phones by simply tapping the devices together. HP acquired Palm last year, and the TouchPad blends technology from both companies.
The BlackBerry PlayBook from RIM has only a 7-inch screen, making it easier to take on the go. The Motorola Xoom is the first device to run Google's (GOOG) highly anticipated Honeycomb operating system, which holds significant promise.
Google's Android system is already a major threat to Apple's iPhone, taking a 25.5% share of the global smart-phone market last year, compared to Apple's 17%.
"If Android could generate the same success with tablets, it (would) further benefit Google's search business as higher Android adoption expands its search business," writes Forbes.
That's not to dismiss the prominence of the iPad, which has the tremendous appeal of Apple's App Store behind it.
"I don't know how to say this without sounding hyperbolic, but the iPad and iPhone have more market potential than any products Apple has ever released," Gruber writes. "They have the chance to be both the Microsoft and the Intel of the next generation of personal computing -- profiting, wildly, both as the software platform vendor and hardware seller."
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