on things

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

TABLET com­put­ers are barely a year old, yet it is hard to imag­ine life with­out them.

Tablets cel­e­brated their Aus­tralian an­niver­sary re­cently, hav­ing ar­rived to un­prece­dented crowds out­side Ap­ple stores on May 28, 2010.

The gad­gets have dom­i­nated head­lines, hands and hand­bags ever since, with Ap­ple sell­ing more than 15 mil­lion iPads and other ma­jor com­puter mak­ers join­ing the trend.

Re­search firm Gart­ner pre­dicts more than 69 mil­lion tablet com­put­ers will be sold world­wide this year and Tel­syte fore­casts a mil­lion of those will be sold in Aus­tralia, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber in the coun­try to 1.3 mil­lion.

But, give it an­other three years and that fig­ure will jump to more than 5 mil­lion, it says.

The quick adop­tion is be­ing fu­elled by more tablet mak­ers and mod­els, prov­ing the gad­get to be more than just an over­sized smart­phone or an un­der­sized com­puter.

Mo­torola re­cently launched its first tablet, the XOOM, the first re­leased with Google’s An­droid tablet soft­ware Hon­ey­comb. It’s be­ing joined by many more Google-pow­ered tablets, in­clud­ing the Sam­sung Galaxy Tab 10.1v, the ASUS Eee Slate, ViewSonic View­Pad 10s and small-size HTC Flyer. Google An­droid global part­ner­ships di­rec­tor John Langer­ling says Hon­ey­comb has sparked a sec­ond wave of tablet com­put­ers and the soft­ware’s open­ness is help­ing more PC mak­ers get in the game.

At the com­pany’s re­cent I/ O con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco, it an­nounced plans to ex­tend that tablet soft­ware.

Google will re­lease a new ver­sion, tan­talis­ingly called Ice Cream Sand­wich, that will make its smart­phone and tablet ver­sion more alike.

It also plans to im­prove the size of apps and wid­gets to ap­peal to tablet users.

‘‘ Wid­gets are one thing that have been on the An­droid plat­form for­ever now, but they make a lot more sense on a tablet screen,’’ Langer­ling says.

‘‘ Wid­gets will now be­come scal­able, so if you’d like to give more space to the con­tents of your in­box you can make that wid­get larger.

‘‘ If you want to see more of your Twit­ter feed on your home­screen, you can.

‘‘ We will make fur­ther en­hance­ments to make third-party apps scale [ to fit the tablet screen], too.’’

Google will also launch a cloud-based mu­sic stream­ing ser­vice and a movie down­load of­fer­ing a clear chal­lenge to Ap­ple’s dom­i­nant iTunes Store.

But some tablet mak­ers are try­ing a dif­fer­ent tack.

HP will launch a tablet with its own We­bOS soft­ware later this year and RIM is due to launch the Black­Berry Play­Book in Aus­tralia in com­ing weeks.

The tablet fea­tures Black­Berry Tablet OS soft­ware, ad­vanced multi-task­ing and is de­signed to be busi­ness-friendly.

RIM chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer David Yach says users are un­likely to care about the dif­fer­ent soft­ware, ‘‘ they don’t care if there are ger­bils un­der­neath mak­ing it hap­pen’’, but will pay at­ten­tion to its speedy op­er­a­tion and con­ve­nient 7-inch ( 17.78cm) size.

‘‘ There are two schools of thought about tablet sizes. It needs to be por­ta­ble, but it also needs to have a large screen,’’ Yach says.

‘‘ The big­ger [ a tablet] is, the less of­ten it is with me. This will fit in a woman’s purse, and I saw one Play­Book be­ing car­ried in the small of a man’s back, like a gun­slinger.’’

Tel­syte re­search di­rec­tor Foad Fadaghi pre­dicts Black­Berry’s tablet will do well as it of­fers ‘‘ a point of dif­fer­ence in a crowded An­droid mar­ket’’, but he says both new strains of tablet will strug­gle to out­sell Ap­ple’s iPad. ‘‘ Be­ing first to mar­ket has re­ally helped Ap­ple main­tain its lead­er­ship, and tablets fit nicely with the Ap­ple phi­los­o­phy of a sim­ple de­vice that is not very buggy and seems to be good for all types of tech­nol­ogy users,’’ he says.

Even so, Fadaghi pre­dicts Google An­droid tablets will steal as much as 20 per cent of the Aus­tralian tablet mar­ket this year.

Tablets, in gen­eral, are also likely to steal some busi­ness from tra­di­tional com­put­ers.

Fadaghi says their ap­pear­ance has, at least, ‘‘ slowed de­ci­sion-mak­ing’’ on lap­top pur­chases as tablet users con­sider whether they can work on their slate in­stead.

‘‘ They are a com­pli­men­tary de­vice to the lap­top and they can also sub­sti­tute for it,’’ he says.

‘‘ They do meet our in­sa­tiable need to al­ways be con­nected to so­cial net­works and email.

‘‘ They are also a sit-back me­dia con­sump­tion de­vice that wasn’t seen as a cre­ative tool, but that’s chang­ing . . . es­pe­cially now they fea­ture cam­eras.’’

With 7 per cent of the Aus­tralian pop­u­la­tion to be clas­si­fied as part of the tablet au­di­ence by year’s end, the chal­lenges will keep com­ing.

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