LAS VEGAS-The 2011 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show seemed to have one collective obsession: tablets. From manufacturers unveiling the latest touch-screens, to smaller companies using iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tabs as booth props, tablets seemed as ubiquitous as casino chips.
The runaway success of the Apple iPad in 2010, and the solid sales of Android-based competitors, such as the Galaxy Tab, meant other companies inevitably would try to seize their own piece of the pie. That being said, the obsession at CES 2010 was e-reader devices, with any number of companies debuting their own version of a Kindle killer-virtually none of which managed to succeed in the marketplace, if they even made it beyond the prototype stage. History, therefore, sounds a note of caution; whether the generalized tablet hype here at the show translates into real-world success remains to be seen.
That hasn't stopped the hype machine, however. Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha took to the keynote stage Jan. 6 to show off the Xoom, an Android 3.0 tablet coming from his company and Verizon Wireless in February. Powered by the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor for extra speed, and optimized for tablet-size applications and widgets, the 10.1-inch device could prove a hit.
Samsung is also planning to build a version of the Galaxy Tab that runs on Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network.
The same day, Dell and T-Mobile joined the tablet fray with the Streak 7 tablet, specifically designed for T-Mobile's 4G network. That device features a 7-inch WVGA multi-touch screen fronted with ultra-tough Gorilla Glass, and runs Android 2.2 on a dual-core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. In what is rapidly becoming standard for new tablet devices hitting the market, the Streak 7 integrates front- and rear-facing cameras for video conferencing.
However, the Streak 7's Android 2.2 operating system puts it at odds with many of the upcoming tablets shown at CES, which largely seem to use Android 3.0. Toshiba also has an Android 3.0 tablet in the works for release later in 2011.
Dell, Motorola and Toshiba all find themselves locked in competition with Research In Motion's upcoming PlayBook, a 7-inch tablet running a specially developed proprietary operating system. RIM hopes that the device will appeal not only to the enterprise users who helped build its BlackBerry franchise, but also consumers who may want something a little different from Google Android and Apple iOS devices.
Although many expected Microsoft to make a high-profile Windows tablet announcement at CES, the company remained notably muted in that area. Microsoft's booth on the show floor displayed a handful of tablets running Windows 7, but most seemed intended for parts of the Asian market. Those devices featured 10- and 12-inch screens, as opposed to the 7-inch tablets embraced by players such as Samsung and RIM.
In place of an "iPad killer," Microsoft and its manufacturing partners spent much of CES pushing laptops with ultra-slim form-factors and touch screens. Samsung's booth featured the Series 7, a laptop whose keyboard slides underneath to convert the device into a tablet. Acer also had a notebook with a second touch-screen in place of a keyboard. Microsoft also worked with Samsung to create Surface 2, the next generation of its table-sized tablet.
In any case, tablets seemed the main story at CES, even more so than the 3-D televisions or laptops running Intel's "Sandy Bridge" chip architecture. But how many of these devices making their debut this week will still be around come CES 2012?