The following user submitted question led to today’s entry:

“I am ready for a tablet computer – what should I get?”

A simple question that unfortunately doesn’t have a simple answer.    However by looking at the current state of tablets and key purchasing decisions – you to can “Keep Pace” with tablet computer technology!!

It seems like only  yesterday

Released in April 2010, the Apple iPad has not only established the standard for tablet computers, it has forced a number of technology companies to release competitive products.

So what are the tablets currently available?

The current selection of available tablets consist of:

What tablets are due “soon”

Expect to see more vendors releasing tablets, but the most interesting candidate is:

  • Motorola Xoom (Announced a few weeks ago, availability “soon”)

And what tablets are “rumored”?

Competition being what it is, the industry is rife with rumors about:

  • Apple iPad 2 (The 1 year anniversary is right around the corner)
  • Google Tablet (No link, but this product has been rumored for some time)
  • Microsoft Tablet (Many rumors exist as well, due to an HP preview last year)

With so many choices, what do you buy?

While the “safe” answer is to go with the industry leader (i.e the iPad), some things consider:

  • When do you want it? –  Are you looking to buy a tablet immediately or are you content waiting a few months until the market leaders become clearer?
  • What will you do with it? –  Do you have a specific use for the product in mind, such as taking it on an overseas trip, taking school notes, reading books or watching video’s?
  • What is the software platform? – The iOS (Apple) and the Android (Samsung, Motorola) are the platforms that will provide the greatest selection of applications.   Tablets not based on Android / iOS platforms will be subject to the laws of supply / demand which may limit the number of applications developed for that platform.
  • Is the device marketed for personal or business use (or both !) – Some early tablets aligned themselves with the business market (i.e. the Blackberry Playbook) so they may not be satisfactory in non-business settings.
  • How much does the device cost? – Tablets typically range in price between $500-$850, and the actual cost is dependent on features such as tablet size and installed memory.   Vendors looking to gain market share may use aggressively pricing tactics.
  • Determining how it will connect to the internet?– A tablet is most useful when it is connected to the internet.   Tablets  connect to the internet in one of 2 ways:
    1. “3G”  – This means the tablet can independently connect to the internet, just like your phone.   This requires a separate data plan for the tablet independent of the data plan you have for your phone.
    2. WiFi – This means the tablet is dependent on a WiFi network to connect to the Internet.    Newer cell phones have “hotspot” functionality where the phone can share its internet connection with a WiFi device (i.e a tablet)
    • NOTE:   Some tablets (like the iPad) come in 2 different configurations (3G and NON-3G).  If you purchase the NON-3G, you can NOT add 3G functionality at a later point in time.
  • The cost of the data plan – In most instances, you will need to select a monthly data plan. The cost/configuration of data plans vary by carrier and center on how much data will be transferred in a given month.  Because it is difficult to estimate data usage, this will be the hardest question to answer.

How do you Keep Pace ?

As  with any new technology, expect to see advances in tablets for the next few years – which means something better will always be “just around the corner” – so no “best” time exists to purchase a tablet!

In the meantime, some things you can do to “Keep Pace”:

  • Visit a technology store (i.e. Best Buy, Staples and Apple) and ask for a demonstration.  Bring along this guide to help you answering the questions listed above!
  • Pick up and work with several tablets to get a feel for how each works.
  • If you have a specific software application in mind, contact the vendor and see if a tablet version exists.
  • Find  friends that have tablet computers and ask them about their experiences with the device.

To “Keep Pace” with future technologies