Home' LAPTOP Magazine : February 2011 Contents Online Editorial Director Avram Piltch guides LAPTOP’s web coverage. He devised several of our real-world benchmarks. Read his semi-monthly
column at www.laptopmag.com/geeksgeek, and follow @geekinchief on Twitter.
The moment he unveiled the iPad last winter,
Steve Jobs sparked a tablet gold rush. Just as
with the netbook gold rush of 2007 to 2008,
small unknown players are rushing into the fray
much faster than their well-heeled counterparts.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen the puny
prospectors Augen, CherryPal, CTL, and Netbook
Navigator roll their wagons westward while huge
PC players such as Acer, ASUS, Lenovo, and Sony
sit quietly on the sidelines, and the likes of HP
and Toshiba stick their toes in the water by quietly
releasing limited-edition slates.
What have these large companies learned from
watching the intrepid 2010-ers mine for ore?
❶ Using a cut-rate resistive touchscreen is
harder than digging through solid quartz with
your fingernails. If you want consumers to run
away screaming, force them to pound with all their
might on the display just to type a single letter. After
they develop repetitive stress injury from pushing
against the hard surface and hearing damage from
the squeaking noise the plastic makes, they’ll be
sure to recommend your product.
sizes and formats, including the 7-inch
Samsung Galaxy Tab (p. 34). RIM ’s 7-inch
BlackBerry PlayBook is also generating a lot
of interest from consumers and business
customers alike. You just have to provide
a compelling user experience.
❺ Tablet users want to travel light.
Weight and battery life matter a whole
lot. Users may like the large screen on an
11.6 -inch device such as the ExoPC Slate,
but its 2.2-pound weight is an issue. The
now-defunct (with the exception of vertical
markets) JooJoo from Fusion Garage mea-
sured 12 inches and weighed a whopping
2.4 pounds. A weight below 1.5 pounds
and a battery life of longer than 6 hours
should be table stakes in this game.
❻Don’t charge more than Apple. AT&T
is charging $20 more than the iPad for
the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and Netbook
Navigator is actually demanding hun-
dreds more for a device with a resistive
touchscreen and short battery life. If you
want to compete, you have to meet or
beat Apple on price. Humble Augen and
CherryPad have shown us that a company
can sell a tablet for less than $200. If only they
had capacitive touchscreens and good pre-loaded
markets, they’d really have something. A bigger
player will probably release a high-quality, low-
cost slate in 2011.
❼ There’s still room for real keyboards. The
iPad is huge today, but other companies can build
wildly successful slates that take a different path.
Imagine how much better the swiveling Inspiron
Duo (p. 30) might be if it ran the next version of
Android and was powered by an ARM processor.
We also see room for slates that offer pen input,
provided it gets paired with the right apps.
As with prior gold rushes, the excitement of the
current Tablet rush will eventually ebb as smaller
prospectors drop out and larger companies grab
their territories. But all these failed ventures will
lead to huge successes for those who watch
carefully. Just as the underwhelming OLPC XO
showed us that an inexpensive ultraportable
was possible and the contemptible Cloudbook
was the first to employ a large hard drive, today’s
lackluster tablets have much to teach.
beware the tablet gold rush
Seven lessons learned from the race to cash in on the iPad craze.
❷Ifyoudon’t haveapps, you’re sellingfool’s gold.
Even thoughiPad users spend apluralityof theirtime
browsing the web, 85 percent of them have installed
10 apps or more. Users want the ability to customize
their tablet experiences, and they shouldn’t be forced
to sideload or hacktheir devices to get what they want.
With its Nvidia Tegra 2 chip, capacitive touch display,
and front-facing camera, the Viewsonic G Tablet (p.
36) sounds good on paper, but it does not support
the Android Market. If you’re selling an Android device
that has no marketplace, you might as well get in the
stage coach and head back east.
❸Stock Windows isn’t ready.Unless you have digits
the size of toothpicks, the Windows 7 user interface
simply doesn’t work for finger input. The icons and
widgets are just too small, and the concept of having
multiple windows on the screen at once isn’t relevant
on a slate. Such innovators as ExoPC have shown that
the Windows 7 operating system can work on tablets,
if you cover it with a really good shell (p. 32).
❹One size doesn’t fit all. Consumershave shown
that they’re interested in a wide range of tablet
Laptop | February 2011
NeWS & TreNDS
by Avram Piltch
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