I've been following slates, tablets and similar PC form factors for quite a while now. They've actually been around for a very long time when one comes to think of it -- at least a decade from what I can tell. There's a ton of hype around them all of a sudden, since Apple released the iPad over a year ago. So where will they go next?
Will consoles try to jump on the bandwagon? Perhaps. It seems logical, even if they do run the risk of looking more like an OEM PC competitor that way. Would the console manufacturers really care? It won't be a question of if, but when, slate form factors are able to play video games that are using advanced techniques, such as DirectX 11. Although I believe consoles are a dinosaur business model, that likely won't stop the manufacturers from pursuing a more mobile form factor. (It's what I'd do.)
Will slates and tablets be able to displace laptops? Perhaps a little bit. However, I definitely do not think they're the laptop-killers that some are touting them to be. After all, what's the No. 1 peripheral bought for them? Keyboards! I think the Asus EEE Pad Transformer is an interesting and potentially evolutionary next step.
What about netbooks?
That particular form factor may be at the highest risk. I'm not really sure what I'd do if I were in the notebook's shoes at the moment. They definitely need some sort of extra-compelling thing to stay relevant. I myself bought an Alienware M11x (11-inch screen), which approaches the size of a netbook. It's about as small as I can go in terms of the screen and keyboard, without it becoming a painful experience. (I'm all thumbs when it comes to typing.)
Then we have Windows 8 coming down the pipeline. It's probably a good bet that Microsoft will throw a ton of eggs into the slate basket. Windows 8 would also make sense for a good marriage of the "Your Entertainment, Everywhere" direction, wouldn't it? I'd be surprised if they didn't.
If and when they do, it'll be interesting to see how they approach the word "entertainment." Will it include both Windows and Xbox games, since it'll likely be originating out of the same division? Will the Kinect somehow connect to -- or be integrated into -- my Windows slate?
I'm sure a Windows 8-based phone most definitely would tie in to this equation. It's definitely fun to muse on, and I really have to wonder if it'll truly be a surprise. Microsoft needs a rabbit and a hat for their next release. From what I can tell, Windows 7 will be their biggest competitor.
What are my predictions?
I think these slates, tablets, iPads and so on are pretty cool, but the lack of a keyboard is the real Achilles' heel. Sure, we could create some sort of perceptual or virtual keyboard for them, or continue to view keyboards as a great way to upsell a peripheral to a consumer. (Ugh, I hate the line of thinking -- just include it!)
My best guess is that they'll evolve into something more akin to the Asus Transformer. To me, they just seem like another evolution, or iteration, of the laptop. I'm all for it, regardless of the semantics of what we call them -- slatelets, slablets, whatever!
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