To borrow a quote from Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman, “With tablets, no one knows anything.”
Eight months ago, we were supposed to see a glut of Android tablets from the big names in consumer tech, all running Gingerbread (Android 3.0, aka Google’s tablet OS), either on store shelves for the holidays, or on proud display at CES 2011 at the latest.
Innovative devices like Lenovo’s U1 hybrid laptop would be flying off the shelves, while analysts debated how the smartbook market affects business-focused eReader sales on the heels of the $800 PlasticLogic QUE ProReader launch.
Of course, major handset and laptop makers have since delayed any Android tablet releases, Gingerbread was an incremental Android update to version 2.3, the Lenovo U1 has yet to see the light of day, the smartbook market is dead on arrival, and no one in their right mind would pay $800 for an oversized eReader.
Predictions are a little easier to make for CES 2011, however, being that the world’s largest consumer electronics showcase is only three weeks away. And TabletPCReview expects there to be a ton of tablets in Vegas.
Honeycomb in Vegas
This recently-released teaser video strongly suggests the Motorola Honeycomb tablet Google Android engineer Andy Rubin showed off earlier this month will be on display at CES. We’re guessing it will be behind thick glass, as it’s doubtful Google or Motorola would let CES attendees manhandle a prototype Rubin claimed cost “literally $10,000.” Still, TabletPCReview takes it as a sign the Honeycomb tablet may be closer to release than we first realized.
Unfortunately, we think Motorola’s will be the only Honeycomb tablet in attendance. Nvidia or another chipmaker might have a prototype Android tablet on display to show off processing power, but news preceding the Honeycomb tablet announcement suggested Google was working closely, and presumably exclusively, with Motorola, which also makes many popular Droid smartphones, in developing Honeycomb. Still, an LG or Samsung Honeycomb tablet would be a welcome surprise.
There will be Windows Tablets
Honeycomb or no Honeycomb, TPCR actually expects the Windows tablets to make more noise than the Android slates, especially in regards to new devices we can actually get our mitts on.
This speculation comes amidst reports that Steve Ballmer is expected to announce a number of Windows 7 tablet PCs from Samsung, Dell, and others. In fact, rumors of a retractable-keyboard-sporting Samsung Windows 7 tablet PC dubbed “Gloria” leaked before the Ballmer report.
As for Dell, Ballmer may have been referring to the Dell Inspiron Duo, a netbook/tablet convertible now shipping, or an as-of-yet-unseen device.
Dell chief Michael Dell was seen carrying around a seven-inch Android tablet earlier this fall, similar to the five-inch Dell Streak smartphone, but outside of a rumored October release date that never materialized, all has been quiet on the Dell Android tablet front. (Update: It appears Dell is about to make some Android tablet noise)
This is not to suggest Android won’t have a large presence at CES. On the contrary, the show floor will be littered with LCD eReaders and white box tablets running various Android versions, in addition to tablets we’ve already seen announced at Computex, IFA and other mobile/consumer tech showcases.
What We Know (We Think)
We think we know we will see both Windows and Android tablets from the Taiwan-based companies, including Asus and MSI. Asus has all but confirmed its Eee Pads, first unveiled at Computex last June, will be on display. The Asus lineup should include the 12.1-inch Windows 7 Eee Pad121, and perhaps two Android tablets. Acer will probably have the dual-screen Windows 7 tablet on display, and if the latest MSI Windpad release date reports are to be believed and it ships in January, then a CES appearance just makes good sense.
Lenovo should also have a few tablets, including the second consecutive appearance of the aforementioned U1, this time sporting Android and Windows instead of Linux and Windows, and the LePad, which is really just the U1 minus the docking station keyboard. Just like last year, the company won’t be on the show floor, and will instead have products on display at a swanky restaurant lounge off of the infamous Vegas Strip.
HP has been strangely silent in regards to its CES plans, with nary a rumor churning around the mill. HP has to be pleased with the relative success of the Slate 500, which exceeded its expected demand, but we think if the company has any tablets lined up, it will be the webOS tablet – aka, the PalmPad – that HP claims will be released in 2011. (Update: It looks like the PalmPad may be at CES)
HP, Fujitsu, and Toshiba, along with some of the other convertible stalwarts, will most likely have modest updates to their convertible tablet PC lineups to announce. While they lack the buzz of the upcoming Android and webOS tablets, TabletPCReview is no less excited to check them out, and it’s a safe bet the inking fanatics in the TabletPCReview forums agree.
TPCR at CES
TabletPCReview will be in Vegas for CES along with the other TechnologyGuide sites to report on the latest tablet, notebook, desktop, smartphone, printer, and digital camera happenings, including first-look reviews on tomorrow’s hottest devices. Keep checking in over the holidays for the latest news.