I took delivery of my new Windows 7 Tablet today, an ExoPC Slate, on the day ironically when Apple unveiled the iPad 2 to the world. It's thinner, lighter and has two cameras. The latter we already knew and the former two should have been expected of a new device. But what does the arrival of the new iPad actually mean for the people of planet Earth?
The iPad has so far sold extremely well, in the last year Apple have sold 15 million units (though in fairness these will be units sold to retailers and not actual units in end-users hands). This is a very large, nay huge, number whichever way you look at it. It's odd then that, while tablet computing has finally found its niche with the help of Apple, that it's still not been embraced by the mainstream in the way that netbooks were in the same time period.
Now before you all come back at me shouting how brilliant the iPad and comparable Android devices are, and how rubbish my personal choice of a Windows 7 tablet was, let's discuss some of the finer details. Certainly the iPad is revolutionary. It's the one colourful adjective used by Steve Jobs to describe it that I'd actually agree with. It's not reinvigorated the tablet market, it's not even reinvented the tablet market. It's taken something that was calling itself the tablet market and shown it how wrong it was. But how many people do you see sitting in bars or cafes, or travelling by bus or train using such a device?
Not too long after netbook's hit the market they were everywhere. You could see them in bars and coffee shops. You could see people getting them out on trains and planes. This just hasn't been the case with tablets. My view, and this is only one perspective, isthat tablets are, for now at leats, very much a home use device, and for only a limited number of people. Those would be tech-savvy people like myself and yourself who read websites like gHacks or follow the latest technology in magazines and the news.
This is an ever growing number of people which partly explains why tablets have taken off in a way they didn't when Microsoft first introduced the concept a decade ago. People have recognised that the technology is now at a point to make such devices viable.
It's smartphones that have done this for us, and done this for Apple, in getting people accustomed to touch screen interfaces, web browsing without a keyboard and mouse, and that have now lead those very same people to want more from such devices.
But listen to the rest and you'll hear nothing but silence. At least from the rest of the population there was a murmur when netbooks were revealed but there is much more resistance to the "tablet revolution".
So where does this leave tablets? Apple will always claim the iPad and iPad 2 to be huge successes, and in raw numbers that's exactly what they'll turn out to be. Other tablets could do equally well and sell in huge quantities. But no technology has really become successful until it's broken into the mainstream and won the hearts and minds of the general population. For this market that's still some way off, but it's coming and it's only a few short years away.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.