In the wake of the iPad there was an almost eerie silence from the rest of the PC industry. Many companies demonstrated iPad competitors at CES in January this year. But rather than there being a rush of products to market to compete with Apple's launch, the only real news of these has been of the cancellations of the high profile HP Slate and Microsoft's Courier prototype.
If you equate this with other manufacturers giving up on the tablet then you are wrong. Over the next week expect to see an explosion in news about tablets as the annual Computex trade show hits Taipei. This is the venue where manufacturers from the technology heartland show off new products, which almost invariably includes dozens of takes on the trendy technology of the moment.
In the past this has included media centre PCs, small form factor systems, ridiculously lit gaming hardware, netbooks and smartphones. This year the trend are tablets, and while little has been confirmed, we expect to see a raft of weird, wild and wonderful product on the show floor.
The Dell Streak
The news has actually begun to flow, with Dell announcing that it will be launching its 5in tablet, the Dell Streak, in the UK next week. Not that Dell wants people calling it a tablet. According to the launch post on Dell's company blog "The Dell Streak is a hybrid device that lives in the space between a smartphone and other larger tablets or netbooks that you might be using right now."
|Dell's Streak sits somewhere between the iPad and Smartphones in size and functionality.
Look at the pictures and you can see what Dell is getting at. The Streak looks like an oversized smartphone (as opposed the the iPad, which looks like a giant novelty-sized smartphone). It uses the same 1GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm as the current batch of high end smartphones and runs Android. It also has a very smartphone-like featureset, with WiFi, 3G and Bluetooth 2.1.
Ducking the portability issue
So this relegates the Streak to a curious position. It ducks the issues with portability that arise with a tablet that is iPad size, but in essence this makes the Streak a phone with a big screen. With the launch confined to the UK for now it will be fascinating to watch whether this form factor can find a market or not.
What we'll see at Computex
We'd expect to see 'proper' tablets from Dell at some point, and while the design of Streak is an interesting departure from the other tablet type offerings we have seen, don't expect it to be the norm. Our expectations are that we will see a raft of iPad sized tablets at Computex, although there will likely be a few extremely different concept products that will never evolve beyond prototype stage.
What will be most exciting is discovering whether it will be a show dominated by the Snapdragon/Android combination that we are seeing on the Streak. There should hopefully be a solid showing by NVIDIA's Tegra 2 processor (which combines an Cortex A9 processor with NVIDIA graphics unit), and there should even be hardware running Intel's recently announced 'Moorestown' Atom-based platform.
The march of Android
But perhaps the biggest revelation will be to see just how many of these devices are running Android. In the past we would have expected to see various flavours of Windows shoehorned onto these devices, or maybe some semi-customised version of Linux. However all signs are pointing to Android being the dominant operating system for tablets.
PC Authority will be on the show floor at Computex next week to get a first-hand look at this new generation of tablets. Remember to check back for updates and announcements as they happen.