The great tablet catch-up

It doesn’t matter if people understand your business model or not… if you sell a million of anything in 28 days, the competition will soon be clawing to get into the game. Apple is seeing some potential for competition.

The other tablets are coming in a few classes of devices.

Several models will run Windows 7. While I think that will represent something useful for some people, it remains to be seen how tablet-friendly Windows 7 software will become. On top of that, these machines have to strike a difficult balance to get decent battery life and performance when running Windows. MS had a failed attempt to light up the Windows-on-tablet business a few years ago and it’s not clear they’ve adapted their approach sufficiently since then.

The most interesting systems are scaling up from a smaller size instead, where the increased CPU, battery life, and screen size represent expanded possibilities rather than cramping the style of existing apps.

On the Android side of things… while details are sketchy on Google’s own entry, whether it is the same as the Verizon joint deal or something separate, we expect to see good things.

Archos 7 has an early lead with a cheap (albeit slow) Android appearance that is on sale now.

Notion Ink Adam is an exciting tablet that will use a dual-mode color/e-ink screen, similar to the OLPC. Claims of 160 hours of use in e-ink mode are being tossed around. This model runs Android (with Ubuntu and Chromium listed as options). This should be a very comfortable way to read e-books. Check out the scoop.

Dell is working on 5- and 7-inch Android models. The 5-inch “tablet” will basically be a very large cellphone carried by AT&T.

I wrote earlier about the potential of seeing a WebOS tablet come from HP. The Windows 7 tablet HP just canceled would have run with an Atom CPU. There may be a quick change in the CPU to match up with the other WebOS devices.

MeeGo is trying to make an appearance in several forms and Nokia may be working toward a tablet version. I used the 770, n800 and n810 from Nokia so this would be a nostalgic moment to see a new device come from this heritage. (With all the talk about Flash on mobile, I’m surprised I don’t see anyone asking how well Flash ran over the *years* on maemo. The results were mixed, but at the moment we seem to just have complete speculation in the press and from Apple.)

Finally, in the weirdness column, check out the Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid. It’s a tablet that runs Android until you connect the screen to the keyboard, at which time it runs Windows 7. Does it have two batteries? Can you still see Android apps when running Windows? How do Linux and Windows like running together?

While iPad is a very attractive machine that I’m working with already, I expect to try something like the Archos 7 or Notion Ink Adam to be my next digital friend. The next couple of months will be exciting.