RootsTech 2014

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tablet Wars -- where do we go from here?

It seems like almost every day a new tablet computer is introduced and immediately predicted to be the iPad killer. Perhaps a little perspective is in order. Back in the early days of personal computers, there were dozens of manufacturers and models of computers. Introductions came regularly. But what happened? Within a month or so, another model was introduced. At one point, as a computer dealer, I was having trouble getting any computers at all and had a huge back order of computers from the manufacturers. New models of computers were being introduced so rapidly that it was not unusual for the computers on back order to go obsolete even before they were shipped!

I see the same thing continuing to happen today. As I walk through a store like BestBuy and look at the huge selection of tablet computers and eReaders, it is like stepping back in time. Some of the models never get off the shelf before they are replaced by a new "updated" and more powerful substitute. Just like with the early computers, I can't imagine who is going to buy some of these products. Right now on Amazon.com there are tablet computers for sale from companies I have never heard of. When I used to go to the computer shows, I would see PC clone (you remember clones, don't you?) manufacturers that probably were working out of their cars. I can only guess about some of the brands of tablet computers today.

Here is a sample of the "manufacturers" from Amazon.com in addition their own six models of Kindles,
  • PanDigital
  • MID
  • Coby
  • Superpad
  • HDE
  • Acer
  • HP
  • Samsung
  • Motorola
  • Le Pan
  • Toshiba
  • Herotab
  • SkyTex
and on and on and on. Who buys these machines? Obviously, some of the names are familiar, but how many do you really know? Actually, some of these are "models" not manufacturers, but you would have to do some reading to tell the difference. Some of the manufacturers I could not identify at all. So where do you go for warranty support? By the way, the Apple iPad was not even featured in the "tablet" computer category. With so many choices, you are almost assured that the model you buy will be just like the computers in the PC clone days, that is, out of production before it reaches the shelf.

Now, is all this bad? No. Actually, it is a sign of real growth and development. Who will win the tablet wars? Eventually, it will come down to software and support. Can you get support if your machine malfunctions? Where do you have to go to get it serviced, send it back to China? I suggest extreme caution in buying "off brands." Overall, be prepared to feel way out-of-date no matter what brand you buy. For example, they are already talking about the iPad3.

As to features, you need to study the market and try out a few of the different models to see how they work and whether you really like them or not. Several of the larger merchandisers have a selection of models on display that you can hold and use, even briefly. If you are thinking about buying a tablet, talk to your friends and neighbors and find out their experience. See if there is something you particularly like about a certain model.

Most of all, see if there is any software available for your new tablet. If the machine is advertised as an "Android" machine make sure it actually uses the operating system from Google. If you are going to use the tablet for genealogy, make sure you can actually do so before buying. Read the blogs and see what the genealogical community is saying about their own experience. And Good Luck.

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