The Future of Tablet computing

A record 19.7m Tablets were shipped worldwide in 2010. The future looks bright for manufacturers of these devices.

Fareed Ali September 12, 2011

Remember the good old days when a bulky machine called a PC was something meant only for geeks. The 8086, 286, 386, 486 and the Pentium revolutionized the world of computing, but only for a short period of time.

Then came in the laptops, notebooks or mobile computing which took technology a step ahead. It's fair to say laptops have come a long way since the early 1990s, LCD displays have been replaced with sleek HD screens and the once plus-size machines are now zero sized models. If laptops have evolved so much in that space of time, where can they go from here; especially in this so-called post-PC era where tablets PCs are all set to take over computing world?

One important element of the laptop design has stayed persistent during the past 20 years, the conventional flip lid, protecting the screen and providing a sturdy base for a the keyboard it's the back-bone of any laptop. But with the emergence of the tablet market, advances in technology and changing materials this could be about to change.

The rise of tablet PCs means laptops must adapt, while tablets and laptops are both suited to particular environments, each could learn from one another. While the clam-shell laptop is tried and tested it does have its drawbacks and limitations, in the future it is very likely that we will see new types of laptops moving away from the clam-shell design. Dual screen and sliding laptops have already made an appearance these early concepts will undoubtedly see many iterations in the coming years, which could see them grab back some of market share tablet PCs have recently taken.

Power, the Achilles heel of laptops, we've all been there desperately trying to complete a task before the life in your laptop drains away. Wouldn't it be amazing if laptops could hold their charge for days on end, unfortunately that's not going to happen anytime soon. However smarter technologies such as inductive charging could soon put AC adaptors into retirement. For this to happen charging pads will need to be widely adopted, just imagine sitting on the train using your laptop while it charges via the surface you're using.

The last two years have seen growth and rapid expansion of the Tablet PC market. A record 19.7 million of these devices were shipped worldwide in 2010. The future looks bright in any case for the manufacturers of these devices. Critics of both are quick to dismiss this trend and hype are quick to point out that these devices offer nothing new to the consumer. So what is the future of Tablet PCs on the market?

A tablet is not a smartphone or a personal computer. Most of these devices do not have video cameras as the smartphone and cannot make calls. It also lacks the devices which came with a PC, mouse and keyboard are associated. However, you may want plug-in devices such as accessories, if necessary. The screen may be larger than a smartphone, but it is smaller than a PC. Basically, the main outlets for appliances slate ultra slim elegant touch screen, wireless Internet access and ingenious applications.

Other features of computers, such as Notepad, games, music and videos can be easily achieved with other gadgets. It is difficult to identify the unique aspects of Tablet PCs that are not available to other high-tech tools. However, these devices are in fashion among consumers. What is driving the demand for equipment tablet? Analysts say the ease of obtaining the content is the most important factor that stimulates the sale of Slate PC. The majority of users are consumers of shale content. Listen to people who are interested in movies, reading online magazines, books, newspapers, music and exchange tips on social media. The makers of the pills on specific niche, which consists of a large number of adolescents, young adults and working class people. Most of these people find it easier to access their favorite content with the tablet PC.

On the other side of the divide are the creators of content. They are individuals who need software like word processing, spreadsheets, databases and working with slides. These people cannot see the need for Tablet PCs that do not meet these functions effectively.

It has enormous growth of the PC market slate in the last two years. Although coverage in the media industry, contributed to their popularity, design and applications are important selling points for Tablet PCs. However, there are many features that you cannot do with Tablet PCs. In such cases, your old laptop or PC will prove to be useful to finish the job.

Let's take a look back in time on technology that made tablet PCs possible.

Light pens

A light pen is a means of input to a computer that relies on a light sensitive device that is capable of detecting positions on a CRT based display. This technology was not used with portable devices, but is a predecessor to later technology.

Passive Digitizers

Screens such as that found on the original PalmPilot utilizes resistive input screen and a simple plastic pen. This same type of digitizer is found on some lower cost Tablet PCs. This type of input is very limited and does not allow the user to rest their hand on the screen without interfering with the input.

Active Digitizers

Active digitizers such as that developed by WACOM are a more advanced form of pen input that is very common in many modern Tablet PCs. Motion Computing also provides a means for pen based input that is notably used by Dell based Tablet PCs.

Touch and Multi-touch

The two main types of touch interfaces are resistive and capacitive touch. Capacitive touch has become popular mainly as a result of the iPhone. Resistive touch is considered an older type of technology that requires pressure to be applied to the screen. Capacitive screens are capable of detecting touch based input in a more user friendly method. An additional benefit is the ability to track multiple points. Current technology on Tablet PCs is limited to two points and commonly referred to as duo-touch.

What is a Tablet


The Newton was a personal digital assistant consumer electronic device introduced in 1989. The Newton was capable of handwriting recognition which is a core component of Tablet PCs.


While most Tablet's run a Microsoft operating system, drivers and software are available to use the same hardware with a Linux Operating System. Additionally, the Axiotron: modbook is a modified Macintosh that supports pen based input.


The PalmPilot, a personal digital assistant, was a pocket sized device that was able to organize information. Early models relied on a specified area of the screen for writing in a Graffiti input zone. This form of writing used a modified character set that made recognition of characters easier. The touch sensitive screens relied on the input of a plastic stylus.


The term Tablet PC typically refers to the product released by Microsoft in 2001. The "Windows XP Tablet PC Edition" of the Microsoft operating system was the first natively pen enabled version of Windows. Windows Vista added pen support to the entire line of operating systems, not typing it down to a special version. Windows 7 went further building in support for touch and multi touch into the operating system.

Evolution of Technology

Going a little back in time on January 27, 2010, Apple CEO Steve Jobs' introduced a thin, always-on tablet device that would let people browse the Web, read books, send email, watch movies, and play games. It was also no surprise that the 1.5-pound iPad resembled an iPhone, right down to the single black button nestled below the bright 10-inch screen. But there was more to it that what met the eye. In addition to the lean-back sorts of activities one expects from a tablet, there was a surprising pitch for the iPad as a lean-forward device, one that runs a revamped version of Apple's iWork productivity apps. In many ways, Jobs claimed, the iPad would be better than pricier laptops and desktops as a tool for high-end word processing and spreadsheets. If anyone missed the point, Apple's design guru Jonathan gushed in a promotional video that the iPad wasn't just a cool new way to gobble up media - it was blazing a path to the future of computing.

Even though the iPad looks like an iPhone built for the supersize inhabitants of Pandora, its ambitions are as much about shrinking our laptops as about stretching our smartphones. Yes, the iPad is designed for reading, gaming, and media consumption. But it also represents an ambitious rethinking of how we use computers. No more files and folders, physical keyboards and mouses. Instead, the iPad offers a streamlined yet powerful intuitive experience that's psychically in tune with our mobile, attention-challenged, super-connected new century. Instant-on power. Lightning-fast multitouch response. Native applications downloaded from a single source that simplifies purchases, organizes updates, and ensures security.

Apple has even developed a custom chip, the A4, that both powers the machine and helps extend its battery life to 10 hours. But don't call it a netbook, a category Steve Jobs went out of his way to trash as a crummy compromise. The iPad is the first embodiment of an entirely new category, one that Jobs hopes will write the obituary for the computing paradigm that Apple itself helped develop. If Jobs has his way, before long we may be using our laptops primarily as base stations for syncing our iPads.

The fact is, the way we use computers is outmoded. The graphical user interface that's still part of our daily existence was forged in the 1960s and '70s, even before IBM got into the PC business. Most of the software we use today has its origins in the pre-Internet era, when storage was at a premium, machines ran thousands of times slower, and applications were sold in shrink-wrapped boxes for hundreds of dollars. With the iPad, Apple is making its play to become the center of a post-PC era. But to succeed, it will have to beat out the other familiar powerhouses that are working to define and dominate the future.

There's a lot to love about Apple's vision. As we start to establish the conventions made possible by advanced multitouch, we'll perform ever more complicated tasks by rolling, tapping, and drumming our fingers on screens, like pianists tickling the ivories. The iTunes App Store model gives us a safe and easy means to get powerful programs at low prices. Rigidly enforced standards of aesthetics will ensure that the iPad remains an easy-to-navigate no-clutter zone. And since we're obligated to link our credit cards to Apple, micropayments are built in, providing traditional media companies with at least a hope of avoiding the poorhouse.

But there's also a lot to worry about. It's a pain to lug around an external keyboard, which many people will require if they're serious about banging out documents. Apple's system is closed in a way that the Mac (and even Windows) OS never was - all apps are cleared through Cupertino, and developers and publishers are a step removed from their users, who make transactions through the App Store.

That Apple-centric vision assures a nasty fight ahead. In particular, the iPad represents a head-butt to another bold new model for computing: Google's Chrome OS.

In some ways, Chrome is even more radical than the iPad. Spawn of a pure Internet company, it is itself pure Internet. While Apple wants to move computing to a curated environment where everything adheres to a carefully honed interface, Google believes that the operating system should be nearly invisible. Good-bye to files, client apps, and onboard storage - Chrome OS channels users directly into the cloud, with the confidence that the Web will soon provide everything from native-quality applications to printer drivers. Google hopes that a wave of Chrome-powered netbooks set for release this fall will hasten that day, and its designers are already sketching out the next generation of Chrome OS devices, including touchscreen tablets.

Google vice president Sundar Pichai contends that having an iTunes-like app store is unnecessary, because desktop software is just about dead. "In the past 10 years, we've seen almost no new major native applications," he says, ticking off the few exceptions: Skype, iTunes, Google Desktop, and the Firefox and Chrome browsers. "We are betting on the fact that all the user will need are advanced Web apps." (Pichai acknowledges that the Web can't currently handle powerful games but says that new technologies like Native Client and HTML5 will fix that problem.)

Though critics of Google worry about the company's power, Chrome OS is an open source system, and the Web apps Google encourages will, unlike Apple's, be available on any device or browser.

Apple won't talk on the record about Google's browser-centric approach, but Jobs did address the notion when I interviewed him about interfaces several years ago. "While we love the Web and we're going to have the best Web browser in the world, we do not want to make our UI look like a Web page," he said. "We think that's wrong." Clearly, he still thinks so. Apple favors the pristine orderliness of autocracy to the messy freedom of an open system.

While Google and Apple are each positioning themselves as pioneers of the next paradigm, Microsoft - the company that dominates the current one - has a more iterative approach. It's taking an evolutionary path that integrates the seismic changes in the digital world into its flagship products, without any jarring leaps. Three years back, Microsoft introduced Surface, a technology that lets people use their fingers and objects to interact with table-sized displays.

Incremental change, however, can ultimately mean no change. A decade ago, Microsoft came up with its own vision of a tablet computer. But the company tried to have it both ways: a new category of device that ran an old style of software - specifically, a modified version of Windows. The Tablet PC, introduced in 2002, was a flop. Meanwhile, advances from Microsoft's labs can approach bar mitzvah age before finding their way into products. Surface is the most exciting product out of Redmond in years, but the company has been shockingly timid in pushing it into the marketplace. Almost three years after it was announced, Surface is still a novelty in a few hotel lobbies and retail stores. Apple all but announced that the iPad could damage its own desktop and laptop business, but Microsoft never seems to put all its weight behind groundbreaking products - especially if success may come at the expense of its Windows and Office cash cows.

The miniaturization technology has come a long way.  From heavy, bulky computer gadgets, we have come to an age where everything has become handy.  The people of the new generation would take a glance back to see how the Tablet PC developed.  From super slow desktops to laptops, notebooks, netbooks to very handy and slim Tablet computers.

The flatness of this gadget seems to somehow suggest that there are certain patterns and trends in which a Tablet computer manufacturing company is pressured to ride on.  The super slim, ultra thin feature of the gadget from the ideas of Apple has descended all the way to the Far East like Compaq.  This industry is not yet totally dominating the computer market.  And although companies like Samsung and Apple are doing great in certain models in terms of sales and distribution, this doesn't mean that their products are the most visible in countries like the third world, which seem to always get the last hand in accessing cutting edge gadgets.

It is pretty clear now that in the near future, these companies will be expanding, and will absolutely need to strengthen their base or center of gravity if they want to have the edge in the tough competition. With Apple and Samsung smoothly on course, things can shift abruptly; nobody knows what's going to happen.  The only thing certain is that this industry would still be existing for a number of decades unless there's a new brilliant idea that would replace it.

Why Apple is still ahead of the pack

When Steve Jobs took to the stage in San Francisco last January to announce the iPad he presented the world with a device he called "magical". Apple fans were enraptured but the sceptics dismissed the new tablet computer as merely 'a big iPod touch'.

On the face of it, that's what the iPad is but to truly understand what makes it 'magical' you need to get your hands on one. It responds so perfectly to the touch that it really feels like you are moving objects around with your fingers. It's seamless; at no point do you sense the computer that sits underneath, drawing pixels in response to your touch. That's the real genius of the iPad - the way it feels - and it's clear from looking at some of the weaker tablet competitors that such responsiveness is no mean feat.

And this time around are many competitors. The iPad quickly surpassed expectations and by the end of the year Apple had sold almost 15 million iPads worldwide. It's no surprise that the competition wanted to get in on the act.

A year on from the launch of the iPad there are tablet computers everywhere. Toshiba, Asus and even Next - yes, the clothes people - have jumped into the tablet market.

The problem for the competition is that Apple is about to deliver a new iPad while many of them are on their first version. The new one is likely to be slimmer, lighter and faster than its predecessor and come with a camera too, for videoconferencing.

The new iPad will certainly raise the bar, perhaps only a little, but it will be a higher bar nonetheless. Carolina Milanesi, of analysts Gartner, said that Apple still leads the tablet market. "The experience that you get is a different experience," she said.

She added that the new iPad "will put more pressure on competitors".

What does the future hold?

As we know, tablet may be the most datable theme recently. Lots of people believe that it may possibly replace pc. Even though tablet pc is really a super star who acquired much concern and expectations from people, it's just a little to show off before smart phones, since which have higher acceptance.

Currently, the newest smart phone has also used dual-core processor, so its configuration is without a doubt excellent as a tablet pc. Part of the customers believes that the improvement of tablet personal computers won't impact the samrtphones since the samrtphones are a lot more portable and would likely attract a lot more customers.

But, other people believe that tablet personal computers are the most crucial device for most customers. All the functions of a smart phone, except for communication, may be realized by a tablet pc. Consequently, a thin common smart phone with a tablet pc will be a good choice. 65% of consumers stated that they will no longer need any computing product excluding tablet personal computers. Even 37% customers believe that tablet pc has replaced samrtphones.

Therefore, what's the future of tablet personal computers?

Due to the essential distinction in portability and operation methods, we believe that tablet pc won't be a transitory device just like netbook computers. However, it'll grow to an equally essential product as notebook computers. But the problem is that just a few suppliers would likely make money from it and many suppliers definitely will exit the market. And from now, the actual winner is only Apple.

Even though the competition of tablet personal computers would likely let's recall the past times of competitions between Netbook computer and MP3, this time is quite distinctive from the prior. Because MP3 and Netbook computers mainly depends on their hardware and there will be no value-added services after the selling of hardware. While the essential of a tablet pc is actually that make the hardware slimmer and slimmer and more and more software. Remarkable user experience and abundant applications will require high technology and strong integration ability of industrial chain, which couldn't be imitated effortlessly by others.

From tablet Pc's to Ultrabooks

Laptops are a vast and complex category, and as such, there are subcategories (i.e. ultraportables, netbooks, desktop replacement) that the tech industry creates to differentiate the small from the large, thin from the fat, and weak from the powerful. It's like putting a plant or animal in its proper taxonomic rank.

Processor giant Intel has decided to rearrange the laptop landscape, so to speak. It has come up with a new category it calls "Ultrabooks," which it feels will be the most dominant type of laptop in the coming years. So the obvious question is: What is an Ultrabook?

First, let's be clear: Ultrabooks aren't a new breed of mutant laptops. Rather, they're part of an evolving category of incredibly thin and battery-efficient laptops that use low-voltage processors. For a while, they were categorized as "CULV" (Consumer Ultra Low Voltage) laptops before Intel realized how terrible the name was from a marketing standpoint. Even the slicker ones, like the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (Thunderbolt) and Samsung Series 9, which were technically members of the CULV family, are now being considered part of the Ultrabook category. But are they Ultrabooks? According to Intel's Ultrabook tech specifications, not really.

What Makes an Ultrabook?

Intel has outlined what the Ultrabook specs are on its blog. The company says that the spec is still evolving, and it will carry out that evolution in phases. Some of the stricter guidelines include a low-voltage Intel Core processor, a frame no thicker than 21mm (0.83 inches), at least five hours of battery like, and lightning-fast boot times. The fast boot times will rely on an Intel technology called "Rapid Start," which makes use of flash storage embedded in the laptop's motherboard. It's an odd piece to this puzzle since Rapid Start has yet to ship in any laptops, so technically there aren't any Ultrabooks out there. The first Ultrabook that will purportedly ship with Rapid Start is the Asus UX21, which is slated for a September 2011 release.


Affordable pricing is sort of an unspoken guideline and critical to the category's longevity. Intel would like prices for Ultrabooks to come in well below the $1,000 mark, which makes you wonder how the Apple Air 13-inch ($1,299) and Series 9 ($1,799) could be considered as such. The Asus UX21, the first official Ultrabook, is expected to ship for $999. Integrated batteries are also preferred by Intel since they don't elevate the laptop from the bottom or bulge from its back. And obviously, an optical drive is frowned upon because it promotes thickness.

Touch Screens Needed

Intel also expects touch screens to be an integral part of the Ultrabook spec, with all eyes on Windows 8 and how Microsoft's forthcoming operating system will drive this segment. Touch screens are perceived as a much later addition to the Ultrabook spec, since Windows 8 isn't expected to launch until later next year. By including touch, though, Intel is essentially anticipating that its Ultrabooks will be tablets as well, which might dilute the category.

Thunderbolt-That is the Question

Thunderbolt, a technology that can be found in Apple desktops and laptops, could be an Ultrabook spec in phase two or three of its roadmap, if Intel has its way. It's a high-speed transfer technology that's roughly 22 times the speed of USB 2.0 and can drive external displays as a mini-Displayport. Unfortunately, Thunderbolt is also in the early stages, and the lack of third-party Thunderbolt devices speaks to that sentiment.

Will Ultrabooks Last?

The big question now is whether the term Ultrabooks will stick and play out in the way that netbooks and tablets revolutionized their respective categories. One thing you can count on is that Intel will not make the same mistake as it did with the CULV segment. Intel announced a $300 million dollar Ultrabook fund intended to help companies achieve this vision. The Ultrabook spec isn't merely a list of hardware requirements that Intel hopes its partners will follow. It's keen on delivering a great user experience as well, which is why the company has put together an army of anthropologists, experimental psychologists, and a Project-Runway-like design team to make all of this come to fruition. And with the amount of effort poured into this category, the CULV section might just be renamed to Ultrabooks.

Published in @Internet Magazine, September 2011


Matt | 10 years ago | Reply

Working in the IT industry I can't say how irritating it is that these are being called tablets. These are Slate computers, not tablets. A tablet is a type of laptop where the screen can be flipped around and closed over the keyboard, and has touch-screen capability. Due to the inter-use of these words it causes significant amounts of confusion and miscommunication when refferring to different products. Writers and users, please start using the correct terms. You're making the lives of techs a living hell.

Varol McKars | 10 years ago | Reply

An interesting overview of the technological landscape.

I see two main issues to deal with: 1. The inevitability of mobile computing: The success of smart phones and tablets, iPad in particular, verify this trend. 2. Moving to the cloud: As every type of data, our personal data in particular, is "invited" to the cloud, we are moving more and more in the direction of "searchable" robots.

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