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A Quick History of the New Slate Tablet PC



tc1100-20080712-141445With what looks like the advent of a new Amazon Kindle and continued talk of an Apple Tablet of sorts, Crunchpads, and other just over the horizon mobile wonders, some are saying the new devices are driving Tablet PCs further into a niche market and some are seeing yet even more promise for the slate form factor. So with that in mind, here’s a quick history of the New Slate Tablet PC.

Once upon a time in the land of mobile computing there was a new device named the Tablet PC. This new innovation offered the mobile geek the opportunity to free him/herself from a desk and a keyboard to work and play in corridors, on couches, in bathrooms, on back porches, and anywhere the geek wished to roam. With the dawn of the age of WiFi, the mobile geek could roam and play effortlessly not having to pop open a notebook to peruse the Internet, or hammer distractingly at keys in a meeting. The Slate Tablet PC was truly an inspiration for those seeking the freedom of mobility, as were its sister convertible Tablet PCs and also the hybrids. The undisputed and romantic favorite of the early Tablet PC cultists was the HP tc1100 with its 10 inch screen size and detachable keyboard.

The promise of these devices offered much. e-Books could be read; media could be read, listened to, and viewed while on the go. Notes could be jotted down with a stylus. The mobile geek was freed from the constraints of a desk and a keyboard. There was (limited) rejoicing in the land of the mobile warrior. And there was also consternation.

Alas, the Tablet PC was not perfect in its early life and though it became the weapon of choice for some, its magic did not spread far and wide. Most focused on the perceived (and actual) weakness of the handwriting recognition and the premium price points. Mighty Microsoft even pulled its punches after creating a killer application (OneNote) that could have sold many on the concept, preferring to keep it a secret. And the outstanding promise of the Tablet PC suffered. Convertible Tablet PCs became the saving hope and Slates were relinquished to the land of niches.

While the creators of the Tablet PC licked their wounds and retreated behind the swiveling screens of Convertible Tablet PCs, the mobile promise quickly became the focus of further innovation on many fronts. The quest for smaller devices and greater mobility consumed the world as did the parallel quest for constant connectivity.

And then a cloud began to gather and form. But unlike clouds that obscured the rays of the sun, this cloud offered a path to mobility that could free mobile geeks further from the anchor of the hard drive and bloated software applications. Data could flow through the cloud and begin to be accessed with applications that also floated bloat free, and often free from cost, in the cloud.

Eventually the makers of other devices, and the chips that powered them, forged new ground and created new devices that carried the original promise forward. The fruits of these labors yielded phones, personal media players, and e-Book readers with always on connectivity that pulled data from the cloud into the device in your hand. Video, audio, and books became available instantly as connectivity options increased. Netbooks were born and upset the old traditions in ways no one could have imagined. Pricing schemes were shattered as consumers rushed to lower cost alternatives alongside those who looked for converged devices that could do it all.

And while some focused on the devices, others focused on content and how to deliver it to this next wave of mobile devices. The mighty Amazon and the clever Apple created methods of quick and immediate delivery that broke the cabled bonds of even the most mobile of these devices with distribution of content anywhere a signal could be found.

In this still tumultuous and constantly evolving world of mobile geekery those who married the content, its delivery, and the device began to prosper and push the vision forward. Intriguingly this generation featured devices that looked very much like the Tablet PC slates of yore with ever present echoes of the much beloved tc1100 Tablet PCs 10 inch screen size.

To be continued.



  1. mrwed

    05/05/2009 at 1:59 pm

    I’ve been hoping that HP will refresh the TC 1100 ASAP. I imagine they could put out a device with an Atom or Nano processor and ION graphics that would be substantially lighter than the TC 1100 (with the same 10″ screen), better performing — and hopefully for $800 or so. Considering the newer netbooks, the new Atom convertibles from Gigabyte and Asus, and the entry level HP Tablet (the TX2?) such a device doesn’t sound unrealistic to me….

  2. C.M.

    05/05/2009 at 4:39 pm

    I just wish Motion will update LS800. I will be the first one to pre-order if they were to update the line.

  3. Dodot

    05/05/2009 at 7:23 pm

    Great article Warner!

    I would love to see a TC1100 refresh with an Atom processor as well – ion would be icing on the cake, but I could live without it. :)


  4. Richard

    05/06/2009 at 8:27 am

    Well written. Those of us who do not type are forgotten in the great keyboard controversy.

    The questions I would like answered are how many watts do you save with a led back light if any. How does the keyboard compare with a touch screen in watts per hour. What mini wifi card is the most energy efficient.

    Mobility = hours on line per pound

  5. Harry de Vries

    05/06/2009 at 11:39 am

    I loved the article Warner! I’m afraid the world has moved on and left us slate-cultists behind… I will however not be surprised if the new Kindle will become the Catalyst to re-start or build on the momentum the iphone has begun towards slate tablets.

    I have a hunch they may not be the full featured work horses we would like – e-ink based etc. but I will believe the move towards the “original” vision behind slate tablets will eventually become popular for non geeks.

    I just hope its in my lifetime…. sigh

    Writing this on my T… you guessed it!

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