Thanks to Steve Jobs and the iPad, this is the year of the tablet, a device some observers believe will change the way consumers use computers. To be sure, the e-reading market is still dominated by dedicated e-ink reading devices like the Kindle 3 and the Sony Readers. But tablets are ferociously cool, offering multimedia functionality and the ability to hold a vast array of content from, books to movies to games.
The tablet market has attracted new hardware players (like HP, Blackberry, and Toshiba) looking to compete with Apple and its platform, and Google's much anticipated Honeycomb OS (Android 3.0), optimized for tablets, is about ready to drop, powering several new devices. Tablets completely saturated the news coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.
Title estimates below refer to the number for sale, and all devices offer more than a million free public domain titles. Once again, picking the next e-book to read is the easy part. What device are you planning to use to read it?
Still $500 (Wi-Fi only) to $826 (3G/Wi-Fi).
9.7-in. backlit color screen/iOS4.
Around 150,000 titles via iBookstore and more via Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Copia e-book software.
Better than ever; lighter than iPad 1, with a faster processor, back and front-facing cameras. And now the iBookstore has Random House titles. Lighter, thinner, faster. What's not to like?
$250 (Wi-Fi only).
7-in. backlit screen; Android OS (maybe 2.2 in April).
B&N is reported to have sold more than three million units, making it the surprise device hit of the year. An April software update should add access to more Android apps, e-mail, Flash support, and—thanks to a lot of creative hacking—who knows what else?
$600 (Wi-Fi); $800 (3G).
10.1-in. HD screen; Android OS 3.0 (Honeycomb).
Ships with Google e-Books (two million titles) with more available via Amazon, Kobo, and B&N for Android.
One of the first tablets with Honeycomb, Android's tablet OS; with front and back cameras, Flash support "soon," and fast dual core processors. Wi-Fi only model still to come.
RIM Blackberry Playbook
$500 (16GB), $600 (32GB), and $700 (64GB); all Wi-Fi.
7-in., backlit screen/QNX OS (reportedly will run Android 2.3 apps).
Ships with Kobo (200,000 titles) and access to books via Blackberry App World.
Available in April. Hands-on impressive at CES, very responsive, fast dual core processor, true multitasking; swipe-gesture bezel; front and back cameras. Could make RIM a tablet player.
Dell Inspiron Duo Convertible
$550 (Wi-Fi only).
10.1-in. backlit screen/"Genuine"
Windows 7 OS.
Ships with Blio (several hundred thousand titles), Dell Stage (online bookstore powered by B&T), and more than one million titles via Amazon and Copia for Windows 7 OS.
This device is a clever transformer, designed to flip the screen and hide the keyboard; it's really a laptop that converts into a tablet, with a dual core processor, webcam, and both physical and virtual keyboards.
Dell Streak 7
$200 (with 3G contract; 4G to come).
7-in. backlit screen/Android OS 2.2.
Ships with Kindle for Android and access to hundreds of thousands of books through the Android Market.
Smaller than the iPad or the Duo, the Streak has front and back cameras and supports Flash. A handy size at a great price.
Samsung Galaxy Tab
7-in. ($250, 16GB, with 3G contract); and by June, an 8.9-in. ($469, 16GB), 10.1-in. ($500, 16 GB).
Backlit screens; the new 10.1-in. and 8.9-in. run Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) optimized for tablets.
More than a million titles through Android Market and through Kobo, Kindle, B&N, Aldiko software supporting Android OS.
The 7-in. Tab came first; now Samsung is releasing two larger-screen devices with optimized Android OS; back and front cameras, dual core processors, Flash support, and very competitive prices. Look out, Apple!
No pricing yet; scheduled to arrive this summer with Wi-Fi to start; 3/G and 4G to follow.
9.7-in. backlit screen/HP webOS.
Hundreds of thousands of titles through Blio and Kobo; 800,000 titles available through an Amazon Kindle e-book app.
HP shows off its acquisition of Palm and webOS, offering a much-anticipated, updated webOS-powered tablet with dual core processing and true multitasking.
Toshiba "Honeycomb" Tablet
No price or availability yet. Maybe by summer?
10.1-in. backlit screen with "adaptive" display (readable in sunlight); Android Honeycomb 3.0 optimized for tablets.
Millions of titles through Android Market (Blio, Kindle, B&N, Kobo, etc.) and the new Toshiba App Place and Bookplace store.
Much buzz at CES; lots of specs, but no hands-on sightings of this much anticipated tablet. Fast dual core processor, front and back cameras, Flash support, replaceable battery, and, of course, the optimized Android OS (Honeycomb). We're waiting, Toshiba.