Last year, as 2009 came to a close, I wrote a blog post predicting that 2010 would be the “Year of the Tablet.” This was several months before the Apple iPad was announced by Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive.
I said then that 2010 would bring a number of tablet computers to the market, including innovative products from Apple, Microsoft, Google and other PC manufacturers, that would change the face of computing and the way we consume magazines, newspapers, video and other Web content.
So much for predictions. Most tablets and slates didn’t even make it out of the starting gate. For example, the Microsoft Courier, an innovative color dual-screen tablet, was shelved by the company, and we still don’t know why. TheGoogle Tablet, long rumored, has yet to be announced. And other products, including Hearst’s Skiff Reader, were either killed or postponed.
So what happened to the year of the tablet? The answer is simple: the iPad. Apple offered a slatelike computer that incorporated its perfected iTunes app experience, at the right price point, and with an intuitive interface that helped the company quickly sell millions of its newfangled device.
As we move into 2011, the murmurs coming out of the nextConsumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas all have to do with tablets again. There will be Microsoft tablets, Hewlett-Packard slates and a number of devices running the Google Android platform. All hope to take on Apple. And so we’re looking at another Year of the Tablet.
Reports released throughout the year by Forrester Research and IDC, market research firms that track electronics usage and sales, say that the tablet market is going to explode in the coming years. IDC predicts that 42 million tablets will be sold in the United States in 2011 alone.
But who can stand up to Apple? Rumors are already flying around the Webabout the new range of features consumers can expect in the iPad 2, including dual-facing cameras and a possibly smaller design.
Companies that hope to compete with Apple will most likely fail — as many have done before — if they try to entice consumers by offering devices with extra peripherals, larger screens and other technical upgrades.
But some will not. Google, which has been working hard to upgrade its Android and Chrome operating systems to work on larger screens and slatelike computers, may yet come up with a competitive product. But let’s hope it’s in the next year, or else we may be predicting yet another year of the tablet in 2012.
What do you think? What companies do you think will be the main contenders in the new market for tablets? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.