That Apple had a revision of its iPad line of Tablet computers ready to go wasn’t a particular surprise, although the exact details of what they were going to release weren’t known until they announced it late last week. It’s not, despite anything that Apple might say, a revolution in tablet computing, and much more an evolution of the concept, adding a faster processor — a similar step to what you’d see in laptop computers, and even Apple itself did the same thing the week before with its Macbook Pro line — inbuilt cameras for Apple’s Facetime video calling solution and an overall thinner and lighter body.
Sight unseen, I’d have to say that if you’ve already got an iPad, this is a pretty easy iteration to skip. Sure, it’s faster, but the only other major new technology feature is the inbuilt camera, and the utility of these on tablets is questionable at best. It’s also worth noting that last year’s iPads — still very capable machines — are being sold out all across the land at what amounts to fire sale prices. For the capability you get, last year’s iPad at this year’s fire sale prices might just be the tablet bargain of the year.
At the same time as Apple’s unveiling the iPad 2, its competitors are lining up competing tablets at a fair pace. Blackberry has its Playbook due out before the middle of the year, Motorola has the Android-inspired Xoom tablet, Viewsonic has the Viewpad 10s already out on store shelves and Samsung’s taking a bet both ways. There’s an upcoming iteration of its Galaxy Tab Android-based tablet due out in a 10″ form factor, similar to the iPad, as well as the 7 Series “Sliding” tablet, which runs full Windows 7. It’s a “Sliding” tablet because behind the screen lies a full keyboard and trackpad, so you can fairly quickly convert it from a straight up touch-based machine to a small notebook. Touch on Windows 7 has been one of those features that’s been baked in from the start, but not all that well set. Most Windows 7 applications simply aren’t built with touch in mind, so while it works, it’s never — to date — worked well. Having had a brief review session with the 7 Series, it might just be the tablet to break this particular curse, with more than a passing effort put into providing it with useful touch-based applications.
If touch-based computing makes sense for you — whether you’re looking at it from a pure consumer web-and-video style “consumption” model, or even as a portable productivity tool — it’s going to be an interesting year. As it stands, Apple’s decision to not radically tinker with the iPad 2 leaves the field quite open to competitors, and it could be worth waiting to see what comes to market, and at what price point before committing yourself.