I had given brief history of tablet computing with an insight into the probable future of this computing platform in my first blogpost – The Pad. Three months on, more devices have appeared in the tablet computing space and whilst its still early to make definitive predictions, certain trends and certain realities within this nascent computing field have begun to emerge.

Form factor

The slate form factor has emerged as the hardware design of choice for tablet computers. The archetypal device in this category is the Apple iPad. Form factors such as the convertible, hybrid and booklet form factors do not appear to be in vogue  in 2010. The recent IFA tradeshow in Berlin saw the launch of a slate form factor tablets from manufacturers such as Samsung, Toshiba, Viewsonic, Archos and E-Noa. Future tablets are likely to stick to this form factor.

Form factor of choice: Slate

Input method – resistive vs capacitative

Resistive screens are pressure sensitive touch screens relying on a stylus/finger tip based input. Capacitative screens rely on input based on screen contact with a finger pad. The introduction of the iPhone with its exemplary capacitative touch screen response has increased the popularity of capacitative touch screens. The input method has also been largely driven by the mobile operating systems(OS) such as iOS and Android. The upcoming Symbian^3 OS and MeeGo OS has optimized its user interface to suit capacitative touch screens. Capacitative touch screens will be the mainstay of tablet computers in tandem with touch centric operating systems. A comparison of the two technologies was done in a succinct manner in All About Symbian and can be viewed via this link.

Screen technology of choice: Capacitative

Operating systems

The two dominant operating systems in the current slate form factor-capacitative touch screen tablets are the iOS and Android OSs. These two competing platforms have been implemented in entirely different methods. Apple’s iOS, a closed platform, tightly regulated by Apple, has been redesigned to suit the iPad. Hence, there is close integration between device and OS. Google’s Android, an open platform, has been implemented in different ways by various manufacturers. At this point in time, iOS is ahead of the pack.

Why is this the case, when iOS running on the iPad is mere modification of Apple’s Mac OSX mobile for the iPhone? Apple, has always focused on user interface(UI). They literally breathe this stuff. Combine this with a tightly regulated software and hardware ecosystem, you have an attractive and a consistent device.

The current problem with Android is two fold.

The first: Not all devices running on the Android OS are complete Google devices. To be called a “with Google” device, the device in question has to have access to the Android Marketplace and should come with Google services such as the Google Maps and Google Mail app. At the recent IFA trade show in Berlin, certain devices such as the Toshiba Folio and the base model of the E-Noa Interpad did not come with the Google services. These devices are not worth the purchase for those requiring Google based applications.

The second: In Google’s own words, Android version 2.2 ( the current version of Android’s OS) is “NOT OPTIMIZED FOR TABLETS”. Whilst the Samsung Galaxy Tab may be the best implementation of Android 2.2, the platform, in  it’s current version is not tablet friendly. Google is going to rectify this with the version 3.0 ( Gingerbread) but at the present time, the Android tablet market is immature.

The MeeGo OS is the brainchild of Intel and Nokia. It is still early days for this OS but the early signs of its implementation in the tablet computing scene shows promise. The recent management change in Nokia and the absence of this platform at the recent Nokia World are signs that MeeGo will likely appear sometime early 2011 rather than Q4 of 2010. MeeGo may be the dark horse in the heated and highly publicized race between Apple and Google for dominance in the mobile devices sector.

However, at present, iOS for the iPad leads the pack.

Current dominant OS: Apple’s iOS

Funding

It has been 9 months into 2010, and we have already seen also rans in this category. The JooJoo was released into this world amidst a heated legal battle between its creators. It may have never seen the light of day. In fact, it’s reviews have been lukewarm at best. Likewise, there have other, rather promising devices such as the Notion Ink’s Adam which is still, a concept. Despite Notion Ink’s proof of the Adam’s existence, the lack of a solid preproduction model leaves much to desired. So, as with all earnest ventures, the lack of financial backing from a big name can lead to products stifled at the conceptual stage. Adequate funding also fuels the ability to market the product.

This factor is certainly a universal one when it comes to product development of any kind. It is nonetheless, a key factor in tablet computing as it ensures the release and sustainability of a device.

What makes the world go around: Money

The tablet computing story is certainly far from over and the scene is sure to change in months to come. The competition has only begun and it is going to get rather interesting and perhaps, darn right ugly. Watch this space.

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