Fast Company

Right on Cue, Tablet PCs Arrive

tablet notion ink

It's been predicted, and the CrunchPad-Joojoo fiasco almost pre-empted it, but the event is happening now: The first tablet PCs are dropping in, ahead of the stormfront that's expected in 2010. One is impressive, the other... not so much.

Notion Ink's Android Smartpad

Due to be properly unveiled at CES, Notion Ink's unnamed tablet PC has not only got a pretty face--it's a damn capable machine.

tablet notion ink

It has a 10.1-inch 1024-by-600-pixel screen, an Nvidia Tegra T20 chipset for full 1080p video capability, WiFi, tri-band 3G, Bluetooth, A-GPS, accelerometer, proximity and ambient light sensors, USB and HDMI sockets, and a 3-megapixel autofocus camera. There's either a 32GB or 64GB solid state drive and an SD slot for augmented storage.

As if that weren't enough, with the tablet acting something like a super-sized, super-charged Android smartphone, that touchscreen is actually a PixelQi unit. If you don't know what that means, then you ought to: PixelQI's technology is a spin-off from the early inventions of electronic paper, and it's combined with an LCD. In other words, it's a dual-purpose screen that behaves pretty much like the e-ink display on an e-reader for daylight, long battery-life performance (and movies too, since it's faster than e-ink) or as a traditional full-color backlit LCD.

That's the device's real killer feature, placing it as a direct competitor for the growing numbers of e-readers, and a direct replacement for the netbook. Because why carry two devices around, each for a specialist purpose, when you can carry Notion Ink's machine in your bag? The all-important price is unknown, though over at SlashGear they're speculating on about $300 with carrier subsidy if you buy it with a 3G data contract.

Archos 9 Internet Tablet

This device has been expected for a while, but is just beginning to hit the streets now. With Archos' long history of good portable media players, you'd expect the Archos 9 to be a capable device. But it's almost crippled by many of the choices Archos has made.

tablet archos

Its styling is much more pedestrian than the Notion Ink, it's got a smaller 9-inch screen, and instead of the powerful Tegra chipset, it's running on an Intel Atom at 1.1GHz with integrated Intel graphics--which will be a limit for some high-end uses. But the oddest decision is to run Windows 7 Starter Edition on the device, which actually doesn't have any of the tablet-friendly touchscreen/mutlitouch powers that you'd pretty much expect on a tablet PC. In other words, the Archos is a netbook collapsed into a tablet format with a touchscreen. It doesn't have 3G connectivity either.

Joojoo

The Joojoo has emerged from the Crunchpad debacle as Fusion Garage's own version of the Internet tablet PC. It's running a custom UI and OS, which limits it to being a net-surfing machine entirely--no apps or traditional software like the the Archos 9 or Notion Ink.

tablet joojoo

The CrunchPad was due to have launched by now, but Fusion Garage has a different timescale, and having taken pre-orders it'll launch sometime early next year. Assuming it actually does emerge as a genuine product: Crunchpad's lead man Michael Arrington has filed a lawsuit alleging Fusion Garage is violating IP as well as other questionable business practices, and Fusion Garage has just responded officially. According to them, Arrington's accusations are baseless, the Joojoo is well on its way to being produced by a new hardware manufacturer. Whether or not that proves true we'll have to wait to find out. But it's hard to see the legal issues helping matters. It looks like the Notion Ink device is going to hit the scene and probably mop-up many potential Joojoo buyers as it's a more capable machine.

One more thing...

All of this news, of course, raises that old favorite question: What about the Apple Tablet? There's still no concrete news, as you'd expect from Apple with its incredibly tight pre-release product security. But with all these tablet PCs arriving imminently, there's even more support for the idea that the iTablet is real, and really on its way soon.

[Via Slashgear, UMPCPortal]

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10 Comments

  • Kit Eaton

    @Andrew. Weird that your comment looks like an advert for HP! ;)
    Yup--"tablet PCs" were trumpeted by Bill Gates long ago, and they've been on sale for ages. But all they were, in effect, was a windows notebook with a bodged-on touchscreen with a clever hinge, usually. Windows has never been particularly well set-up for touchscreen use, until now.

    The upcoming tablet machines I'm talking about really are Tablets, not Tablet PCs: They're slimmer, they're designed for purpose (versus being modified laptops) they've got multitouch screens and extras like 3G connectivity built in. There're accelerometers, light sensors, and such. And they've got UIs (except for the Windows 7 Starter one) that are optimized for large gesture-controlled displays. There's a question of semantics, for sure--some call these things "slate PCs". But they're as different from previous Tablet PCs as the iPhone was from the smartphones that went before it.

  • Andrew Wilcox

    Weird article. I have been using HP Tablet PCs for 5 years including a TC1000, TC1100, TC4400, 2710p and now the 2730p. It's good to see more players coming into the market. Hopefully it will stimulate the development of more applications.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Corvida. Sadly nope, other than dabbling with an old-style rotate/flip touchscreen laptop in a store. I think the next gen of these things is really going to deliver--the Notion Ink certainly looks amazingly promising!
    @Noah. Yupty, 100% agreed. But I don't think it's going to be much of an issue, particularly if they use SSDs and have the low-energy-supping screen option offered by PixelQi. Though the better-looking ones will be slimmer, they don't have to have the space-eating mechanism of a keyboard in the chassis, so there's more room for a battery.

  • Corvida Raven

    Agreed Noah! But I don't have high hopes in this department considering most mobile gadgets never seem to make it past 3 hours with regular usage. Besides, I don't have enough space next to my bed for a cradle with all the new gadgets I review. Not enough power outlets either.

  • Corvida Raven

    Kit,

    I've been using the Viliv x70 for a while now, but it's body is just too big for me and I don't like the layout virtual onscreen keyboard. I'm hoping future developments with these tables will make them slimmer in size, while providing a great keyboard interface without jeopardizing the experience.

    Have you tried any tablets this year?

  • NoahRobischon

    Battery life is going to make or break these devices. Wake up in the morning to get online from bed and that thing better still be charged -- and no, I don't want to keep a charging cradle next to my bed!

  • Kit Eaton

    @Brian. Do you know something about the iTablet's price?
    @Corvida. Exactly what I'm interested in them for. And in the kitchen too--reading google'd cooking directions on the iPhone's screen is a tad tricky :)

  • Corvida Raven

    I'm interested in all of these tablets as nightstand space-takers and midnight web surfing. I think they all look good, but if Apple comes out with a great product, it could blow Notion Ink's device clear out the water. Unless of course N.I. does everything RIGHT the first time around.

  • Brian Shunk

    I'm not interested in the Apple tablet; if it ever happens.
    Not everyone wants an overpriced computer. Notion Ink's
    Android Smartpad looks like it would fit the bill in my case!
    I'm looking forward to owning one.