Tablets, tablets, tablets: What to expect at CES 2010

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Every year at CES there’s a theme, a trend that runs through the event like a seam of CE gold. A few years ago it was GPS devices and last year it was netbooks. There was a period of laser TVs in there somewhere along with some 3D stuff, but generally you could watch almost every manufacturer fall over themselves to get something out the door that matched the zeitgeist.

This year, friends, it’s tablets and it won’t be pretty. Dell is planning an Android tablet and folks like Archos should be dumping more Android MIDs on us in a few months. At IFA this year, in Germany, even Toshiba tried to get in on the act with one of the ugliest little tablet things in the world. How horrible was it? They decided it would run WinCE.

However, if history is any guide the popularity of an item at CES is an inverse function of its actual sales in the next year. If – and this is a big if – there’s an Apple tablet at MacWorld or thereabouts then expect copycats to blow out in droves. However, if Apple holds onto its iPad for a few more months the tablet revolution will soon peter out.

Tablets were never good. Mainstream OSes were too keyboard dependent and the technology was half-baked. I think simplification is key but I worry that companies dedicated to making things as complex as possible – Dell, Sony, and HP come to mind – won’t know how to strip down their tablet offerings once Apple shows them how to do it right.

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