Earlier this year, CEO Thorsten Heins of beleaguered tech company BlackBerry infamously stated, “In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore.” The press had a field day with this quote and the explosive growth of tablets in 2013 alone seems to be proving otherwise. As if to rub Mr. Heins’ and other tablet-doomsayer’s faces in it, October is seeing the launch of multiple new tablets, including new lineups from Microsoft, Nokia and Apple, all essentially debuting on the same day.
Apple dominated the American media on Oct 22 with the debut of “the lightest full-sized tablet” on the market, the iPad Air, weighing in at a diminutive single pound. It also updated the wildly popular iPad Mini with its high-resolution “Retina” display, bringing the 7″ tablet up to par with competing models from Google and Amazon. In an attempt to not be out-done (and sadly not quite succeeding in that effort), Nokia announced its first tablet today as well. The Lumia 2520 will run Microsoft’s Windows RT, a move that analysts questioned given the tepid consumer response to Microsoft’s tablet OS, but is not unexpected in light of the Redmond tech-giant’s recent acquisition of Nokia’s hardware business. Not wanting to be left out of the tablet party, Microsoft held its own midnight release event on Oct 21 at its retail stores around the country to celebrate the arrival of the Surface 2. Despite loud music, flashy displays and enthusiastic staff, the Surface 2 launch parties seemed to be (unsurprisingly) sparsely attended.
What this means for you:
If you’ve been holding off on buying a tablet for some reason, the market is currently overflowing with choices, and many of them are very strong on features and backed by staunch developer support and healthy ecosystems, notably the iOS and Android family of products. Though many are saying it’s too early to tell, the Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets have a stiff, uphill climb in the market, something that is keeping developers away from the OS, leaving Microsoft’s app marketplace relatively barren compared to the competition. There’s been a minor stir of interest in the Surface tablets from the arts industry, primarily because of the hardware’s robust pressure sensitivity, but unless you have a specific use case in mind, I’d steer clear of the Windows tablets for now. If you’ve been concerned about the size and weight of the 10″ tablets (very hard to use as bedtime readers or if you spend any time as a standing commuter) you can’t go wrong with a 7″ tablet from either Apple, Google or Amazon, all of which now feature high-definition screens, robust app stores and great portability.