Toshiba To Debut iPad-Style Tablets Later This Year

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Toshiba, the world's fifth-largest personal computer maker says it will launch slate devices later in 2010, including models that run either the Microsoft Windows 7 or Google Android operating systems.

Jeff Barney, general manager of digital products for Toshiba America, tells Reuters that his company is exploring several tablet form factors, including a dual-screen tablet that runs Windows, and another slate with a 10-inch display. He predicts that these new tablets won't cannibalize netbook sales, despite the overlap in functionality. The Android-based device would cost less than the Windows tablet, Reuters reports. Both tablets, like the Apple iPad, would be used primarily for media consumption, including online video, music, e-books, and other digitized content.

Toshiba was a key partner in Microsoft's tablet (convertible notebook) iniative a few years ago, and it's clear the Japanese company has been thinking about a dedicated slate device for a while. Late last year it unveiled the 7-inch Journ.E Internet and Multimedia tablet (pictured left) at the IFA electronics fair in Berlin. Read our hands-on impressions.

The Coming Slate Showdown

Toshiba is the latest industry heavyweight to go public with its tablet intentions. Hewlett Packard's upcoming Slate device, which may ship as early as June (though HP hasn't confirmed a date), will reportedly sport iPad-like dimensions and feature a touch-optimized user interface based on Windows 7 Home Premium. Dell's planned Mini 5 tablet may be Android-based, and continued rumors have Google developing an Android-based slate as well.

In additional, a dozen or so other iPad alternatives from Archos, Asus, Lenovo, Microsoft, and other vendors show just how bullish the industry is about your interest in tablet computers.

It's unclear, however, whether the iPad's early success is sustainable, or whether its gaudy first-week sales figures--Apple says it shipped more than 500,000 iPads--will translate into strong demand for competing tablets. Certainly, the iPad is a beautifully designed consumer appliance, but its post-honeymoon value has yet to be determined. Will it (and other tablets) find a niche between the smartphone and laptop, or ultimately collect dust on the coffee table as its novelty fades, and early adopters lose interest?

And assuming that Apple has another hit on its hands, will the competition be able to deliver a consumer-friendly experience that rivals the iPad's impressive ease of use? Using the smartphone market as a historical backdrop--the iPhone versus numerous copycat handsets like Verizon's Droid--it's likely the other guys will come close but fall a bit short. An imperfect presentation doesn't guarantee market failure, however. If it did, Microsoft Windows would've never survived the 90's.

The tablets are coming. Will you buy one?

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