Here come the tablets

If e-readers are the hottest new gadget these days, tablets are close behind (and at some point it's likely these two categories of device will merge). Yesterday saw rumors, announcements and first hands-on with three different tablet devices.

So first let's hit the obligatory Apple tablet rumors. I knew I wouldn't make it to 2010 without reporting another of these. The latest news, coming from Quick Pwn by way of VentureBeat, says that the device Apple is unveiling on January 26th is called the iSlate and that it is primarily an e-reader meant to compete with the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.

I'm not buying the name; the evidence seems pretty sketchy. Over the weekend someone uncovered that Apple had registered a few years ago, and from that info the blogosphere seems ready to assign the name iSlate to the much-rumored device. We'll see. But Venture Beat's Paul Boutin makes a good case for this device being targeted at e-books. Apple has made great strides in selling music, tv and movies through the Apple Store (not to mention iPhone apps, of course) but so far they've only dabbled in e-books. With Amazon and to a lesser extent Barnes & Noble starting to gain traction in the e-book space, Apple needs to move quickly to get its slice of that pie. Once a consumer buys an e-reader and builds a library of e-books that will only display on that reader, it's going to be hard to sway them over to a competing system. Presumably Apple sees every Kindle sold as a lost potential e-book customer.

Interestingly today also saw another Apple Tablet component rumor. CNET is reporting that Apple has chosen a supplier for 10" glass for the iTablet. But wasn't this January announcement supposed to be about a 7" device? Are there two products being revealed, a 7" e-reader based on iPhone OS, and a 10" Tablet Mac running OS X? At this point I think it's anyone's guess what, if anything, is going to happen next month.

Let's move on to more concrete news. Phandroid is reporting that the Notion Ink Android tablet now has a name ("Adam"), a launch date (June 2010) and a price ($321 US). That seems like quite a modest price for a 10" tablet. The Adam is supposed to be shown at CES, which will make this announcement more convincing. So far we've just seen renders of what the final product will look like.

And to the even more concrete: the Camangi Webstation, another Android tablet, is now shipping. This is a 7" tablet with an 800x480 resolution, and it runs Android 1.5. It sells for $399 ($389 if you order before the Early Bird price expires) which sounds about right given the current competition. The brave folk at Gear Diary pre-ordered the Webstation and they've got an unboxing video to give us an idea of what you get in exchange for your PayPal'd $400. Am I the only one who gets spooked when a little-known company refuses to take credit cards? Maybe I'm just old-fashioned. Anyway, I'll embed the unboxing video below. Or you can read an early review from Laptop magazine.

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