Tablets may heading for a better fate than many people predicted. That's the takeaway from this post from Ken Fisher at Ars Technica. Fisher points to the fact that Dell is releasing its first unit, the Latitude Tablet PC, this year. He also says that Axiotron's ModBook, which transforms Apple's MacBook into a tablet, is close to launch. Fisher says that he can't wait for the final product after using a pre-production version for a few months.
Fisher says tablet computing generally has a "bolted-on feel." Now, with tablet functionality natively integrated into Microsoft's Vista operating system, that feeling will fade.
We will go a step further and suggest that there are differences on the user side as well. The emergence of smart phones and the continued penetration of iPods and other devices is priming the pump for tablet computers. The idea of computing as something that almost always is done on a desktop or a traditional laptop is ever-more antiquated. Tablets will benefit by becoming another venue for the mobile computing experience. Put more simply, the world may be catching up with the tablet vision.
This piece at IT Business.ca seems to generally agree with Fisher's take. The story, which focuses on a new product introduction by Motion Computing, suggests that tablets were always miscast. They should have been marketed to specific verticals instead of horizontally across all industry boundaries. If that approach had been taken, tablets may never have been perceived to be a failure. The writer agrees with Fisher more directly in the assessment that the Vista OS will help tablets develop.
On the other side of the coin, Rob Bushway at GottaBeMobile suggests that the tablet market has become unexciting. He provides a list of what would get his attention. The post was written before the Dell announcement, so it would be interesting to see a follow up: One of the things he said could get him excited -- a drop in price -- certainly will happen now that Dell has entered the fray.
Finally, this Larry Dignan post at ZDNet references the Dell news in general and Fisher's post specifically. The line that caught our eye is almost throwaway at the end which asks whether ultra mobile PCs (UMPCs) will evolve in a similar way as tablets. Our thought is that that is unlikely simply because the landscape upon which the evolution will occur is itself evolving so rapidly.
To the vast majority of folks, there is little difference between tablets, UMPCs, convertibles, slates and even smart phones. They are mobile computing devices, pure and simple. While Dignan's post certainly is relevant for insiders, it's important to keep in mind that the lines between device types means little to most people. The good news is that these folks are increasingly comfortable with mobile and portable computing devices -- including tablets.