The return of tablet PC

The first mover

The term 'tablet PC' was made popular by Microsoft way back in 2001 when it announced a product that was defined as a pen-enabled computer conforming to hardware specifications devised by it and running mostly a licensed copy of a "Windows XP Tablet PC Edition". The software giant, however, was not able to capitalise on its first mover advantage. Analysts attributed the failure to bad timing, high pricing and poor user interface (UI) design.

This January, Microsoft had another go at the tablet. HP's Slate device was demoed by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at January's Consumer Electronic Show (CES), along with tablets from other vendors. Touting the HP Slate 500, an HP website page describes the device as powered by Windows 7 Premium and sporting an 8.9-inch screen with internet access and two cameras (still and video).

With the Apple iPad, though, tablet or media tablet PCs are making a comeback. Media tablets typically do not include built-in hardware keyboards but use a stylus/pen or finger for navigation and data input.

They provide a broad range of applications and connectivity, differentiating them from primarily single-function devices such as ereaders (Amazon's Kindle, for instance). They are primarily marketed as multifunction entertainment devices, but productivity applications will eventually be available to support consumer and enterprise users.

International Data Corporation (IDC) analysts contend the nascent market for media tablets, fostered by the launch of Apple's iPad, will be driven by the device's attributes as a content consumption platform and the compelling applications and services that will be created to take advantage of them.

"These are early days for media tablets, an altogether new device category that takes its place between smartphones and portable PCs. IDC expects consumer demand for media tablets to be strongly driven by the number and variety of compatible third-party apps for content and services," notes Susan Kevorkian, programme director, mobile media & entertainment.