The gadgets that are cirulating this year in the run up to Christmas are much the same as last years but this time in HighDefinition, multi-touch and always with the better battery life or new Operating System… That’s why I’m choosing to write about what should have been the big product this Christmas – the Apple Tablet.
I have been yearning over a decent size tablet-only form factor device coming to the UK for a while now. And as the idea isn’t exactly a new one what with swivel-screen laptops having been available for a decade - why could this Christmas be the best time to enter the market?
Lets start with talking about the proposed functionailty of such devices. If I can just dream outloud for a moment, I would liek to see my new tablet made to support the following:
- Android style social network integration (Facebook/Twitter/Flickr ).
- Fully developed apps for web browsing, media playback, image viewing and video conferencing.
- Decent and simple server syncing for Email/Webmail, Contacts, Calendars.
- Android/iPhone style app marketplace for all those little things like PDF viewing, touchscreen PC media remotes.
This should be relatively simple given the strength of the Android system on phones so far. The required hardware would not even need a speedy CPU if the hardware was not to run a full blown Linux distro and simply a lightweight Android system. Saying that – I’m not sure how video would fare especially when the world of HD is moving into the mainstream. – but there are low cost solutions to these quandaries.
The issue is that I know I would always want to do slightly more than an Android system would allow, such as use that touchscreen for drawing and graphics editing, possibly even video editing, but if it were HD video and the OS were Android that would not be a lot of fun. The other thing is the low low cost of netbooks over the past 18months has lead people to understand how little they need spend to get great functionality. This article for instance is being written on an Acer Aspire One netbook which is just a N270 Atom powered 9″ £150 bargain! Luckily a Linux OS – Fedora 12 – picks up where the hardware leaves off and I achieve a large amount of my workload using an inexpensive piece of kit.
So, bar the cost of a multi-touch screen this should all be acheivable on a budget right? Well… that depends on what you want to run on it – whether you’d accept an Android system, a full Linux based distro, Windows 7 or OSX. Obviously Android and Linux can run on cheaper specialised hardware like Via/Qualcomm/ARM etc whereas Windows and OSX will likely only be supported or even workable on more mainstream CPUs.
In terms of those wanting the iTablet (or whatever they’re going to call it) to be capable of everything their £800 macbook can do – you’re going to have to wait. Jobs isn’t bringing anything out in time for Christmas so late and he will have also priced many out of the sweet spot for these devices. What I would concentrate on is the convergence of digital photoframes / alarm clocks / touchscreen remotes / ebook readers etc but all with an expandable OS and larger screen than any current smartphone (or even the Archos PMPs). And that is the next point – to PMP or not to PMP?
The answer is that these devices will converge like just about anything else (sat nav / mp3 / calendars) onto the appropriate smartphone or tablet. For me that means I will continue to play my mp3s back from a netbook/desktop/smartphone as and when it takes my fancy. But do I want to take a massive collection of media everywhere I go? Well, massive no – but 8-16GB SD cards are cheap enough now for me to think 16GB in my phone and 16-32GB in a tablet (via expansion slot obv) is not too much to ask. As both my phone and the tablet would be wirelessly bonded via bluetooth or Wifi I could playback videos taken with my phone on the tablet. Or I can sync important folders between the two. But where does this leave PMPs? I would say, dead in the water unless they bring much bigger touchscreens to their PMPs and only offer an Anrdoid OS / Linux / Windows option. No more homegrown OSes. They’re worse than useless and people expect more.
If you happened to be wishing for the same gadgets in your stockings as I am, here is where I would keep a watchful eye:
Engadget’s Apple Tablet page (face it they’ll know about it within seconds of Apple’s announcements)
ICD Vega Tablet
Update : The Crunchpad will not be available anytime soon