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January 22, 2010updated 19 Aug 2016 10:05am

Why I’m slating the iSlate

Amongst the thousands of news articles and blogs gushing over the anticipated launch of an Apple tablet computer next week - possibly called the iSlate or iPad, or neither - it's perhaps worth taking stock of the situation and asking whether all

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Amongst the thousands of news articles and blogs gushing over the anticipated launch of an Apple tablet computer next week – possibly called the iSlate or iPad, or neither – it’s perhaps worth taking stock of the situation and asking whether all this hype is really justified.

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The concept of a tablet or slate PC is not new. They’ve been around for about 10 years, and it’s a format that came to the mainstream thanks to a product announcement by Microsoft in 2001, which saw the Redmond-based firm launch a pen-enabled computer running a licensed copy of the “Windows XP Tablet PC Edition”.

It was essentially a laptop-style device that featured a touch-screen with handwriting recognition, to make it easier to jot down notes, rush off a quick sketch or whatever. Some manufacturers opted to stay with the laptop’s physical keyboard, spawning a category known as “booklets”, while others dropped the keyboard in favour of just a touch screen in a device resembling a slate.

So first off, let’s just remind ourselves who brought this concept to the masses – Microsoft – before we wonder whether Apple’s version will “change the world” as some commentators are suggesting.

Second, it’s worth noting that so far, such tablets have found only a limited audience. A recent Morgan Stanley report suggested two million tablet PCs were shipped last year, compared with 34 million netbooks and 131 million notebooks.

So why hasn’t the concept of a tablet PC overtaken more traditional laptops, notebooks or indeed the latest netbooks already? Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive list of disadvantages including the higher cost, snail-like speed of handwriting recognition compared to a keyboard, screen and hinge damage risk, less familiar ergonomics and in most cases a relative lack of power.

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So if Apple launches a tablet-style Mac next week, will it change any of this? I sincerely doubt it. To read the rest of this article click here.

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