wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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Tradeoffs, compromises and the future of tablets

For what it's worth, being in charge of the weekday news roundup at The Other McCain is forcing me to keep abreast of the news (foreign, domestic and technical) to a deeper and wider extent than I had been these last few years when I was just reading Instapundit and a handful of other -mainly political- blogs. Between Google News, WeSmirch and Memeorandum, I wind up learning a lot about a number of topics I normally wouldn't have known much about*, and one of those topics is the disappearing line between tablet PCs and e-book readers. Barnes & Noble finally did what I'd been hoping they'd do when the news first came out that the Color Nook had been hacked to unleash its potential as an Android tablet: they're selling the color Nook pre-hacked, so that now you can buy a tablet PC running the Android PC for just $249. Yes, it only has a 7" screen, but on the other hand, you're not on the hook with AT&T or Verizon for a couple years' worth of their data plan. I think this is going to put pressure on a couple of folks. Amazon needs to bring out a color Kindle tablet, and HP needs to get off their asses and get the TouchPad on the market. Amazon's problem is that the Kindle is being undercut by the Nook tablet, which is comparable in price, can run the Kindle Android app, and can do other things besides merely serve as a portable library. HP's problem is that while WebOS is arguably superior to both iOS and Honeycomb, it is late, late, late; worse yet, it doesn't have the enormous store of applications that iOS and Android tablets do. Yes, it painlessly transfers data from the Pre3 and Veer phones to the TouchPad (and probably will soon do the same for the Pixi and older Pre phones); yes, there are probably some other nice things that it'll inherit from the last WebOS phones from Palm...but it's taking forever to get the damn thing to market. I'll probably buy one anyway, but I can't help wondering if the whole business of converting the entire HP netbook/laptop/tablet line to run on WebOS isn't too little too late.

I'm also skeptical about the notion that tablets are going to wipe out netbooks. Most of the tablets so far rely on the cloud computing concept, and as we have seen lately, that concept still isn't quite ready for prime time from a corporate point of view. There's still going to be a market for smaller laptops that can function without the cloud, to say nothing of larger laptops with more flexibility and storage, just as there is still a market for specialized data collection "bricks" such as the FedEx and UPS guys use.

NB: I don't pretend to be a computer expert, just a user that's been around for a while and has been forced to immerse himself in tech news five times a week.

*And, in the case of the news WeSmirch delivers, I would just as soon not have known in the first place.
Tags: tech stuff
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