26 Jan

How did tablet technology spring onto the market?

These days tablets are everywhere. They are not quite as popular as smartphones — with nearly everyone in the world owning a phone, and most of them owning a smartphone — but many more people are opting for tablets over desktop PCs and laptops. They are still limited to high income households and those with extra expendable income, but that is slowly changing thanks to low-cost tablets from budget developers, such as Acer and Lenova.

The current popularity of tablets is hard to believe when you consider that just a few years ago these devices were unheard of, and a few years before that tablets were something niche that only those with a lot of money and a desire to stay up to date with the latest gadgets had any interest in.

The first device that resembled a modern tablet was released in 2002, under the umbrella of the Microsoft Tablet PC. This was where the name “tablet” came from, and was a term that Microsoft invented in order to describe a handheld computer that used their Windows operating system, but was created by other developers. These very early machines were clunky, heavy and nowhere near as powerful as modern tablets. Their uses were also limited, and this, along with several other factors, was the reason why these devices failed to take off.

The Palm Pilot made a bigger impact several years later, but if anything this merely gave business professionals a cool way to keep track of appointments and to store contact details. These devices lacked the ingenuity of modern tablets, and in many ways they had even less capabilities than the Microsoft Tablet PCs that had preceded them. Although to be fair, it did advertise itself as a Personal Desktop Assistant (PDA for short) and it never claimed to be anything other than a glorified organizer — it certainly never claimed to be a tablet.

The thing that really sparked public interest in tablets was the iPhone, which was released in 2007. These had way more success than anything that had gone before. They were phones — sleek and well designed phones at that — and that’s what served to draw the buyers in, but they were also mini-PCs. Whereas the market for such devices had failed to take off previously, once everyone was introduced to the idea via the iPhone, then consumers changed their tone.

When the iPad was first released in 2010, it was obvious to everyone that it was going to be a success. When the Microsoft Tablet PC launched people were using desktop PCs to do most of their work, sitting down in officers and on desks, but thanks to the iPhone consumers were used to the notion of handheld computers that they could take anywhere, and they loved it. The iPad was popular, but it was later releases that served to increase that popularity even further.

The iPad mini, the Samsung Tablet, the Kindle Fire, the Google Nexus and other such devices were all released within a short time of each other. These were smaller and more lightweight than the original iPad. They basically gave consumers a bigger, heavy iPhone, without phone connectivity and without the hefty price tag either.

By this time, tablets were almost as powerful as desktops and laptops, and they were just as useful. Tablet users can now do most of the things they do on desktops and laptops on their 10 inch device, and they also have added benefits of app stores, games, cameras and more. Considering what this market looked like back in 2002, when many developers failed to get Microsoft Tablet PCs off the ground, it is amazing to see how far it has come. But when you consider just how good tablets are, and just how cheap modern advances in technology and a competitive market have allowed them to be, it doesn’t seem as surprising. Tablets and phones are taking over; game and software developers are switching over to these handheld devices; website designers are ensuring that their sites are compatible with mobile browsers; and one report, from the LA Times, suggests that in 2015 there will be more tablets sold than PCs.

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