If 2001 sounds like a long time ago, that is because it is. At least in the technology world where there is a new, better gadget every week, 2001 is millions of years away. In that year as the world was getting used to the idea of a new millennium and when AOL and Yahoo looked like everlasting technology leaders, Bill Gates the future philanthropist made a prediction: “The tablet takes cutting-edge PC technology and makes it available wherever you want it... within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold.”
As we know now, it would take another nine years before a credible tablet computer entered the market and it was not from Microsoft, the King of PCs. Two-and-a-half years after the introduction of the iPad, the tablet computer seems to be on the path to becoming the most popular form of PC. Just ask Apple, Google, Amazon and more importantly Microsoft. For the first time ever all these four companies will be competing in the same space with credible products, the only difference being that some are already market leaders, and some are new contenders.
Take Apple. The market leader in tablet computers made two remarkable announcements just this week that would not only shape up the future of the tablet market, but also the future of Apple itself. Firstly it announced the iPad mini, a 7.9-inch version of the iPad despite Steve Jobs’ famous assertion that a smaller iPad is ridiculous. As Amazon with its Kindle Fire and Google with the Nexus 7 were selling millions of 7-inch tablets, Apple had to concede that the 7-inch, cheaper tablet is a popular option and had to come up with its own version. These three devices, and their successors are showing all the signs of penetrating world’s classrooms and homes thereby changing children’s perceptions of a personal computer.
Even as it announced its 100 millionth iPad sold, Apple also announced the fourth generation of the 10-inch iPad just seven months after the release of the third generation. And it has started calling it just the iPad, instead of iPad 3 or 4, signifying that like its Mac computers, the iPad is just another personal computer, and unlike the iPhone which continues to be numbered, the iPad will get updated even twice a year as new technology becomes available. Just as these iPads were being unveiled, the king of desktops and laptops was getting ready to launch its own first tablet computer thereby effectively getting into Apple’s game.
Microsoft’s ‘Surface’ which debuted to lukewarm reviews is also significant because it is not just that it is the first time Microsoft is getting into computer hardware business competing with its partners like Dell and Samsung. By launching Surface with Windows 8, which is a hybrid of desktop computing and tablet computing, Microsoft is also saying that it recognises what the future is. That future has traditional PCs as we know today used by only professionals who want high powered computers. Every one else will use, low powered tablet computers that are good at doing what ordinary people do. Things like browsing the Internet, watching movies or taking photos. Finally tablet computers are putting the personal back into the personal computer, and the game has just started.
The author is a tech geek. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org