CES Diary: Carving the future of tablets in stone



I've been in Las Vegas for 24 hours. The preview events are just kicking off. The jetlag is just wearing off. But already, one thing is abundantly clear: CES 2011 will be dominated by tablets.

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My contacts at RIM are already promising I'll be allowed to get my hands on the BlackBerry PlayBook at the Digital Experience showcase on Wednesday. MSI have told us they're prepping the MSI WindPad for an unveiling at CES and then there are the continuing rumours that we'll see a HP Slate running WebOS.

Add to that buzz the growing hubbub surrounding the iPad 2, and you've got a recipe for a CES with a tablet obsession. Many of the tech journalists and industry insiders I've already spoken too are hoping Apple will crash the CES party and announce new iPad models this week too, and while that might be a little far fetched for my tastes, the Mac App Store is set in stone for a launch slap bang in the middle of the tech show, on January 6th.

And all this before we venture into the halls of CES to discover the bargain basement Android tablets lurking, waiting to be discovered. I'm predicting armfuls of them, from manufacturers you've likely never heard of, ready to be re-branded on their entry to Britain.

Which leads me to a worrying trend amongst tablets. Nobody's yet figured out what really makes a great one. The Samsung Galaxy Tab came close, but dropped the ball for me with a monstrous price tag and smallish screen.

My iPad has been a sturdy companion for many months, but still I struggle to use it for anything approaching work or productivity. Most of the time it's a glorified portable DVD player, or a bigger version of my iPhone for browsing the web.

What BlackBerry, MSI and HP have is a chance to reinvent tablets and forge them into something everyone can use, for every task. BlackBerry's strategy seems the most interesting, acting as a mobile companion and geared towards business activities. HP is bound to surprise with its WebOS offering and the WindPad? Your guess is as good as mine. One thing's for sure: I'm hoping for more this CES than a crop of iPad clones.

CES Diary by James Holland