CES: Tablets galore but Ballmer disappoints delegates

By Dawinderpal Sahota, Nicola Brittain
06 Jan 2011 View Comments

Although traditionally a consumer technology event, announcements from CES are of increasing interest to the enterprise, and this year, which has seen a multitude of tablet announcements, is no exception.

Manufacturers have been tripping over themselves to show how keen they are to follow in Apple's footsteps, after its success with the iPad.

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The keynote speech from Microsoft's Steve Ballmer kicked off proceedings, with delegates anxious to know Microsoft's plans in the tablet space; the hot topic at this year's show.

However, the speech was widely panned, as Ballmer instead spent an hour talking about sales figures for the giant's operating system Windows 7 and Kinect. He avoided giving sales figures for Windows Phone 7 and the only other news from the company was delivered at a private event; the announcement being that Windows 8 would run on mobile devices and support UK chip maker ARM's architecture, fuelling speculation that the tight relationship between Intel and Microsoft arguably has a less rosy future.

Fortunately for delegates, however, there were plenty of other vendors happy to talk about their work in the tablet space.

Given the widespread rollout of BlackBerry handsets within the enterprise, RIM is well placed to compete with Apple's iPad in the business space, and its much-anticipated Playbook device was finally available for perusal at the show.

The device runs on RIM's new operating system, built from the ground up specifically for the Playbook, and the company has said that the tablet is expected to be on sale in February 2011.

RIM is not the only manufacturer showcasing its tablet PC at CES this year, Toshiba, LG, Asus, Motorola and UK firm X2 have each unveiled their own iPad competitors.

Toshiba's as-yet-unnamed tablet PC runs on the Android operating system. It will be released in spring 2011 and the price is yet to be announced.

Asus announced four new tablets. The Android-powered Eee Pad Slider and the Eee Pad Transformer have physical keyboards and tegra 2 processors. Both tablets feature HDMI ports, front and back-facing cameras, and will run Google's Honeycomb Android OS. The slider will cost $500 (£322) to $800 and the Transformer will cost between $400 and $700. Both will be released in the spring.

The other two tablets are the Eee Pad Memo and Eee Slate EP121 with Windows 7. The Memo features only a 7in screen, but packs a dual-core processor and dual camera. It is being heralded as a cross between an iPad and a smartphone, and will cost from $499. Details of the Eee Slate EP121 tablet had been released prior to the show but it was on display there. Arguably its most important feature is that it runs Windows 7. It should cost about $1,000 and be released early this year.

Motorola is also preparing to launch its Xoom tablet PC, although the version that the company is showing off at CES is not finished yet. This is because it will run on the Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system which is yet to be released. The handset will be available in March and pricing will be announced at launch.

British firm X2 has also said it will launch a tablet PC that runs on Windows 7 this year. The iTablet is expected to start shipping in March although pricing details are still being finalised. The firm hopes the device will compete directly with Apple's iPad, particularly in the business space, and appeal to those who also use Windows in the workplace.

Hoping for the same is Samsung, with its own tablet that runs on Windows. This tablet is able to differentiate itself from the many iPad clones being showcased at the event as the screen slides up to reveal a full physical keyboard and a mouse interface.

The company is also hoping to compete with Apple by launching a high-performance laptop that is lighter and thinner than Apple's MacBook Air, aimed at enterprise users on the move. The ZX310 is scheduled to be available in February 2011, starting at $1,599. An official UK release date has yet to be confirmed.

Do any of the tablet PCs at CES make you more inclined to buy a tablet for use at work? Take the Computing poll.



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