The tablet scene is erupting at an enormous pace, and it’s getting more and more difficult to keep up with everything that’s happening around it. Predictions are being made that they are the future of computing and it’s hard to deny that 2011 might be the year where we see the most number of them being launched. Tablets are just another form of mobile computing, but are they really ready to take over the world computing? Is it time up for notebooks and netbooks?
UMPCs (Ultra-mobile PCs) is where the dream first started. Making this dream a reality meant squeezing a PC into a device the size and shape of the tablet that we see today. There were too many hurdles in the process, and the end result was an extremely expensive piece of hardware which still wasn’t as compact as the tablets we see today. The tablets we see today were born via a parallel development process – one that was meant for mobile phones.
The processor has always been one of the most important parts of any tablet. The majority of the popular and successful tablets we see today are based on either Qualcomm’s Snapdragon or ARM’s Cortex A8 processors. Apple’s recent creations the iPhone 4, iPad, iPod Touch 4G are all powered by the Apple A4 processor, which is basically a Cortex A8 processor along with a PowerVR graphics solution embedded within it. Dell’s Streak on the other hand is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor. As expected, CES 2011 saw loads of tablets being announced and the trend seems to drifting in NVIDIA’s direction. Dual core processing is looking to be the future as everyone from LG to Notion Ink are going to be launching upgraded tablets running the Tegra 250 processor. All these are after all, the ARM architecture. ARM in the last year or so, has very cleverly and stealthily run away with the market, while most other companies underestimated the tablet craze.
The question one must ask is where is Intel in all of this? One would expect them to be in the middle of things. Intel developed the Atom processor to be a low-power processor for everything from desktops to netbooks and even tablets. Intel hit the netbook target spot-on. Turns out that the existing Atoms aren’t as power efficient enough for use with tablets – something which the ARM processors do extremely well and they do it while still handing multimedia applications rather well. The new Oak Trail processors from Intel, which are set to launch in early 2011 are said to fix these issues. Microsoft has said that they would be adding ARM support in their upcoming Windows operating system. That’s got to get Intel worried, at least a tiny bit.
The reasonably good tablets in India are priced around the Rs. 25,000 mark, which is around the same sweet spot of entry-level laptops. The Notion Ink tablets for example will be priced in that range. We know that everyone would like to have a tablet along with their PCs, notebooks and gaming consoles. But what if the performance of tablets matched notebooks, would you throw out your notebook?
While there are apps being developed for all of the popular mobile platforms, there isn’t a single app which could possibly eliminate the need for a MS Office, or say an Adobe Photoshop. The problems of ergonomics of operating a tablet slowly creep in too. Having to bend and look into a tablet, or hold up a heavy tablet in your face while using one of your hands hands isn’t the best way to go about doing things either.
Mobile computing on a tablet or a mobile today is definitely lacking a lot. There are great for light browsing, sending a few e-mails and playing multimedia content on them. When it comes to actual work though, 9 of 10 times, you’ll find yourself running back to a PC or a laptop. If you want to know a bit on how the most anticipated tablets of 2011 are shaping up, read our recent feature on the iPad 2 vs Adam.