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Should You Buy A Tablet Now or Cancel That One on Santa’s List?



Crazy. That’s what the Tablet/Slate picture is now. Crazy. I got hit with a question from an old chum on Facebook this morning. Here’s the question.

OK, I was going to get an iPad for my kid for Christmas. Now I see the Samsung Galaxy Tab is selling like hotcakes. You keep saying that the current operating system isn’t designed for Tablets on those. I understand that. Now I see that Google is getting ready to release an operating system designed for Tablets and that the next iPad is around the corner. Should I buy now or wait?

Ah, the technology race. It’s never ending and there are never any clear cut winners because it is never ending. What is hot today is sure to be supplanted to tomorrow. My stock answer is if you want or need it and you have the cash buy it now. You’re never going to be ahead of the game for long no matter when you purchase. That stock answer though can be perceived as tough to swallow given just how fast (or slow) things are moving in this space currently.

The good thing is that sometime next year (double emphasis on sometime) consumers will have a broader range of choices to choose from. But that doesn’t help my bud, or anyone else contemplating a Tablet/Slate purchase this Christmas. Tough to tell your kid to wait until next year on Christmas morning. The problem is what we’re seeing, hearing, and talking about right now are machines with lots of promise and no real specifics. But is that a problem?

What is real right now is that the iPad is still a champion. Apple is selling lots of them. The ecosystem is moving along nicely and the App choices just keep piling up if you can find what you’re looking for. The Samsung Galaxy Tab looks to be a real contender for the moment and probably is so because of the size difference along with other features that the iPad doesn’t have. There are more choices than anyone would care to count on the cheap Android Tablet front. Windows 7 Tablets are just starting to really appear and the fact that most of those focus on the Enterprise market should tell you quite a bit if you’re a consumer.

What we suspect will happen is that Apple will have an iPad 2 come spring beginning its yearly update cycle similar to its other products. Google will eventually release Android 3.0 for Tablets and Slates in 2011. There will be still be a slew of other Android Tablets rolling following this, some with the new operating system, some with older versions. But banking on what either Google or Apple will do right now is nothing short of getting excited about your favorite baseball team during Hot Stove speculation season.

If I had to wager, and I won’t, I’d wager that this time next year we will see a market still being defined but with more choices all around. Heck there might even be a Chrome model or two in there somewhere. Tablets and Slates as we know them are redefining quite a bit of what we think of as computing devices. The endless debates about do they replace a computer or not are becoming meaningless on some levels and full of meaning on others. For some it looks like they certainly could. For others they become an entirely new thing with potential use cases we are just beginning to imagine as we break out of the mode of thinking that in some ways force us to examine them in light of what we have known before.

The bottom line for me is that regardless of what Tablet or Slate someone ultimately chooses, the metaphors are going to be essentially the same. We are still going to be touching, pinching, zooming, scrolling, the screens with our hands and fingers, at least until voice recognition becomes better. Those who play the game now aren’t going to gain any real advantage over those who wait as that UI metaphor is relatively easy to pick up. There’s a reason some call it a Natural User Interface.

With all that said, my answer to my friend changes my stock answer just a bit. Go ahead and make your kid happy on Christmas morning. Waiting for the next great innovation will only yield waiting. Getting in the game now will, in my view, just open up a new frontier that we’re going to continue to be exploring for some time to come.



  1. Anonymous

    12/07/2010 at 3:50 pm

    For content consumption, I think you are probably right. If I was buying a tablet for my son to surf the web and play tunes and video, I don’t see any game changers in the near future. I’d probably go with Archos (since I don’t want another 3G monthly charge) but I could see Samsung if 3G was really necessary.

    However, I would disagree with your dismissal of Windows 7. I suspect that, for the most part, the capacitive touch tablets that have been released or announced are going to turn out to be frustrating. Win7 was just not designed for touch. However, the HP Slate, which offers a dual digitizer (capacitive and active) and which I just received two days ago, is a nearly great product for consumers as well as the enterprise. While I would prefer voice, I find pen input much more of a “natural user interface” than virtual keyboards. I think the only reason HP targeted it at the Enterprise is to avoid consumer oriented reviews that try to use it only in touch mode and complain about Windows and touch.

    I have experienced more intermittent flukiness with the n-trig “digital pencil” and combined pencil/touch interface than I did with my old Wacom “Penabled” pens and the dedicated pen interface. But the faster CPU makes Win7 much more responsive than it was on my OQO or my T91MT (that I bought when my OQO’s motherboard died). Other than the minor annoyance that the pencil doesn’t have a clip (which means there is no easy way to carry it in your pocket and it rolls whenever you put it down) I am more than pleased with the Slate.

    • Jeff Jackson

      12/07/2010 at 4:20 pm

      You got yours two days ago? But that would have been Sunday. When did you order and what day did your order arrive? I’ve been noting a lot of out-of-order deliveries and am trying to document them so we can complain to HP.

      • Anonymous

        12/07/2010 at 5:40 pm

        Sorry, two business days ago – Friday 12/3 – ordered 10/22.

        • Miralles

          12/12/2010 at 1:47 pm

          Sorry for these questions, and I really don’t want to hijack this post. But can you comment on battery life on the HP slate (say vs the iPad), as well as the inking experience (say, vs a Tablet PC with Win 7)? Thanks much!

        • Jeff Jackson

          12/12/2010 at 1:58 pm

          Over on, the early recipients are reporting a all 5 hour battery life, maybe even pushing 6 hours with no wifi and screen brightness turned down. % For inking experience, search youtube for heatlesssun’s demos. He notes some glitches, but none happened during filming.

        • Jeff Jackson

          12/12/2010 at 1:58 pm

          Over on, the early recipients are reporting a all 5 hour battery life, maybe even pushing 6 hours with no wifi and screen brightness turned down. % For inking experience, search youtube for heatlesssun’s demos. He notes some glitches, but none happened during filming.

  2. Anonymous

    12/16/2010 at 5:56 am

    I’ve decide to buy an ipad for myself.

  3. Arendth

    12/16/2010 at 8:12 pm

    The big wildcard for tablets in 2011 is the connection to the internet. Both Att and Verizon have announced plans to buy about 5 gig for $50.00. I have read estimates that a 4g connection will use 5gig in 37 min. Without a constant connection will these devices really be useful? Or will they be relegated to the home where there is a wifi connection. I think the smart phones have succeeded because the data connection was unlimited and ubiquitous It would seem the wireless carriers have the ability to kill the goose that has laid this golden egg..

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