Tablets and EReaders Steal Thunder at CES 2010

The operating systems change little, but the form factor rules

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The price pressure that made the netbook genre successful is to a small extent, behind the revived category of tablets/e-readers. While machines from Asus, MSI, and others captured the imagination (and low budget) of many, the tablet/e-reader category at CES 2010 has blossomed with new products.

There seems to be three form factors emerging. The first is one made familiar by Amazon with Kindle-- the single display, portrait view in monochrome. The second is the dual display, hinged in the middle portrait view in either monochrome or color. The third category is interesting and more expensive: a notebook/netbook with detachable display where the display is a viewer device. In this third category, the display is also tethered via wireless connection to the notebook 'base station' machine. This makes for a handy Hulu laptop reader.

The operating systems foundations underneath all of these are a hodgepodge of the usual suspects: Android, variations of Linux, and Windows XP and 7. The touch screen technology to make these devices work has been around for years, championed by the likes of Fujitsu and others. Of the ones I've seen so far, the most vivid came from Lenovo-- a Thinkpad with detachable tablet.

It would seem that Apple will ship something with MacOS on it soon as the rumors of an 'iSlate' have been pretty consistent. In the WSJ today, a former Apple exec spoke of Apple's use of 'controlled leaks' to keep a marketing position place held for them. This is common. What's not common is the fact that the product isn't available. Apple's had a long time, and its Chinese competition is starting to embarrass them. Apple can only wait so long before a new product category can be stolen by someone else. I wonder if this will be the first time this has happened to Apple in a while. I also wonder what kind of madness will face developers that try to make products for the unannounced 'iSlate' device. They're getting tired of the hassles found with the iPhone.

But Google, who announced their Nexus One iPhone killer yesterday, is sitting pretty as its Android version of Linux appeared on numerous products. Oddly, they don't make much money on Android, but what they do get is a developer network that has an increasing number of platforms to purvey their products on. Apple and Microsoft know the mirth of platform varieties. Now let's see whose apps make more sense for users in 2011.

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