Barely a day seems to have gone by recently without a new tablet PC being launched. The question really is whether there is an actual need for such a device outside of certain established niche markets. Apple and many others certainly seem to think so.

Are tablets the future?

The first thing to consider is whether the potential requirement for this sort of device is geographically biased insomuch as will what goes down well in certain affluent areas of the United States also be readily adopted in Asian, (and more importantly for us), European markets?

So far the statistics seem to indicate that adoption outside of the US is much slower for this sort of device but how long that trend will remain true for remains to be seen. After all, most of us can think of plenty of examples from devices to business practices that started in the US and then became popular elsewhere.

The next question is, which sectors are potential markets for a slate PC? I mean it would make a great device for a sales orientated road warrior or a self important office based executive but when it comes to actually bashing the keys in a high output work environment will a slate really be as much use as a PC or a notebook? I think not for now and unless the technology improves significantly, that will remain the case for the time being.

Domestically however, I can see real benefits to these devices as the Graphical User Interface, (GUI), should be far more intuitive than on a regular PC especially with the multitouch functionality becoming more the norm. Anyone who has used an iPhone or one of the Android phones like the HTC Hero, will probably tell you about how easy it was to get the device to work without having to read the manual or have it explained. In my opinion even if the device itself evolves out of all recognition from the current slate form, the intuitive GUI and variants of it will shape how we interact with computers in the future.

The slates that are currently offered seem to be taking an interesting direction with operating systems from the usual incumbents – Microsoft and Apple – but also with Google stepping up with Android based offerings. This ties in with these devices’ feel of being more about communication than previous computers, so the entry of mobile phone born Android based systems should not really be a surprise to anyone.

It would appear that those who have bought Apple in the past will continue to do so as the devices are good looking, slick and user friendly in their own way. The functional limitations seem to not really trouble the users as I believe many think that one does not miss what one has never had.

Microsoft will do well within this market as a large percentage of the population appears to be of the opinion that a computer is not a computer unless it carries a Microsoft operating system. The same resistance to significant change as the Apple users have shown will also apply and as a result Microsoft devices will hold the majority of the slate market (unless of course Microsoft manage to build in some fundamental flaw which puts them out of the running).

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