News Columns & Blogs

‘Tablet wars’ to aid consumers

Since Apple’s launch of the Ipad, one can hardly read a technology magazine without seeing an article on the latest “tablet” rival hitting the streets. Computer manufacturers like Hewlett Packard, Google and Samsung have all launched, or will soon launch, their version of the latest must-have device. The question for you is whether you must have it and, if you do, what does the “war” mean to you?

Well, deciding if you must have a tablet can only be answered by knowing what a tablet is, as well as what it is not. Tablets are actually not new and date back to the 1980s were they were referred to as “pen computing” devices. They were simple units that needed a pen or stylus to input on to the screen. Microsoft tried to lead the charge in early 2000 with its Windows XP Tablet addition but chose to support the more notebook-like convertible tablet, rather than the “slate” style we are seeing in the news today. Tablets today are a cross between a notebook PC and a smart phone. They are wireless portable personal computers that utilize a touch screen or a stylus pen to access or process information.

The newest slate tablets are devices that can be used as an eReader, a means to watch movies or as a note-taking device using a stylus and recognition software. They are light and mobile with cool app stores selling programs that allow you to add automation capabilities, sketch drawings and much more.

What they are not is a laptop computer, though they cost about the same. Tablets have limited storage, no keyboard and no DVD.

They have limited processing power which hampers their ability to run more complex applications and graphics needed by power users. They also are self-contained. Unlike today’s laptop or especially the PC, you cannot simply upgrade the hardware as your need for capability increases. Though they are useful and fun, they are not for everyone.

So you have decided that you have got to have one. How is the coming “tablet wars” going to benefit you? There are two prime benefits. The first is competition. Competition in any industry breeds innovation and ultimately, should drive down the price. Not only is there competition in hardware, but in the software that operates the tablet with the current leader Apple’s iOS followed closely by Android from Google and the always present Microsoft Windows OS. For the consumer, this means that manufacturers will be fighting hard for market share. As each manufacturer introduces new devices and there use increases, prices should fall.

Competition leads straight to the second benefit. Choice! There are differing manufacturers creating devices using their own software as the operating system. Each of them will be vying for your dollar so improvements in capability and ease of use should be the result. Additionally, competitive devices will vary in size and weight, which will give consumers the choice between larger screens or lighter, more mobile units.

So if you are salivating at Apple’s slick ads or Samsung’s Galaxy, be patient and choosy. The war is just beginning, and it is us -- the consumers -- who are poised to win.

Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 753-8277.