Gadgets and Games

2011 CES:  The Year of the Tablet

The Blackberry Playbook, one of a fleet of tablet computers unveiled at this year's 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

The Blackberry Playbook, one of a fleet of tablet computers unveiled at this year's 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  (Blackberry)

At this time last year we’d never seen an iPad and we didn’t know who would buy one. Now Apple has proven that tablet-style gizmos will sell ... and this year every company wants in on the action.

The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off this week in Las Vegas. And it isn’t much of a stretch to predict that it will be the year of the tablet computer. This month I expect to see tablets from HP, ASUS, RIM and many more. We saw something like that last year with a glut of eReaders at CES, most of which never hit the market. These, I think, may have more staying power.

AOC, which claims to be the world’s largest manufacturer of LCD monitors and HDTVs, just announced the launch of the Breeze, an ultraportable tablet with an 8-inch, 800-by-600 touch screen -- running Android, of course. Reports indicate Toshiba will be releasing a tablet as well, tentatively (and adventurously) called the Toshiba Tablet, powered by a forthcoming version of Android, called Honeycomb.

These and other tablets will all be playing catchup to the iPad; if they want to really stand out, they'll have to be two steps ahead. And some may just be. Here are the tablets I’m excited to see this week:

I’m jazzed to see HP’s PalmPad running Palm's new WebOS 2.5 operating system. Fingers crossed that we'll see it in Vegas, but the PalmPad will more likely arrive a short time after. According to spec sheets for that tablet obtained by, it will run on Sprint's fast 4G network and will come in four different sizes, one specially tuned for university students.

I’ve always felt that WebOS, with its card-style layout, lends itself to a tablet experience better than any other mobile operating system. And I say that as an unabashed iPad fan.

Most experts also are excited to see Blackberry’s Playbook, myself included. That device will run on a special operating system created by a company RIM recently acquired, QNX, and the company is calling its new product "professional grade," whatever that means. 

And then there’s Android.

Sure, we’ve seen an older version of the operating system running on the Samsung Galaxy Tab to nice effect, but even Google admits that version of Android isn't made for tablets. We’ll finally see the latest version of Android, that's Honeycomb, at CES on devices from companies like Dell and Motorola.

This is all very promising, but everyone expects the iPad to be on the same development cycle as the iPhone -- which is yearly, of course. So while all of these tablets sound great, keep in mind that iPad’s first birthday is only a few weeks away. 

What will Apple unveil? Don't expect to hear from the company at CES. The fruity company famously avoids the trade show in favor of holding private events. But rumors indicate Apple is ramping up a second generation iPad -- and only time, the company, and Steve Jobs himself know what it may look like.

Regardless of OS or manufacturer, it's clear that tablets will explode in 2011. This year, thin will most definitely be in.