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Mixed Signals on Tablets

Obviously the media tablets like the iPad, Xoom, Galaxy Tab and others are a big hit.  PC tablets that have been around for a while never did well.  They were more of a crippled netbook than anything.  Research firm IHS iSuppli recently reported that media tablets will outship PC tablets by a factor of ten from 2010 to 2015.   An easy stat to agree with.  IHS iSuppli also projected that 888.7 million media tablets will be shipped during that time.  That surely qualifies as a big hit.

But as successful as tablets are, I am getting mixed reports from those I know with tablets. They range from total infatuation to almost complete dismissal.  If you thought your tablet would replace your laptop, you probably discovered that it could not for many functions especially for office related stuff.  Yet it will do email and Internet searches just fine if that is all you need.

I have had a few tell me that their smartphone does everything the tablet does and more.  I agree with that completely.  If you don’t lust after the big screen, stick with your smartphone.  But if portable gaming and videos are your goal, you will love the tablets all the more.

I use my tablet mainly to access email and do Google and Bing searches from my easy chair.  And I can watch a downloaded movie or listen to music with a headset while my wife watches something else on the main TV set.  I still use my Kindle for reading although I could use the tablet for that as well.  It also works pretty well as a Skype platform.

Other comments I hear include the lack of a printing capability and a standard USB port.  There are multiple printing apps out there but a bear to use from what I hear.  The USB port would really help. The Xoom has a micro USB for whatever that is worth.  The Xoom and Galaxy Tab have MicroSD slots.  Nice touch.  One of the biggest gripes about the iPads is no Flash support.  That really makes people mad.  Of course, the Android-based and other tablets all support Flash.

ConsumerReports’ recent (June) issue ranks the iPads in the top spots followed by the Xoom and Galaxy.  Apple’s high res screen with its wide viewing angle makes a great deal of difference.

Tablets are definitely not a disappointment but they are not what some people expected.  They are a communications device almost entirely and not much of an actual work computer.  I like my tablet but I find I still use my iPhone and laptop the most.

With new tablets arriving daily it seems, how do you distinguish one from another?  They all do the same thing as they emulate the iPad2.  Tablet product line managers worldwide are scratching their heads for a key differentiator.  I keep wondering if a killer app will emerge for the tablets that we don’t expect. Basically tablets are a base presentation platform with communications capability so the killer app is probably a software product. Any ideas? 

One thing I would like to see is embedded AM and FM and maybe HD radio.  That would be a great addition in my opinion.  So would over-the-air (OTA) TV.  Digital OTA HDTV is available now and some receiver chips are ready.  Embedding one is doable if you can solve the antenna problem.  But there goes the power consumption and battery life.

Let me know what you think and also what specific technical features you would like to see in a tablet.  What would make you buy a tablet if you don’t already own one?

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