Sneak Peek: Android Tablets to Rock the Market

Android isn't just for smartphones anymore. Google's mobile operating system is coming to tablets that could rival the iPad in portability and usefulness for business.

They're (Almost) Here

The Android tablets are coming! Actually, some are already here, but a wider selection of Apple iPad-like slates will have arrived by early next year. So what can we expect? The range of business-friendly tablets, many with powerful video and communications tools, will surprise you. Here are ten tablets--some real, some vaporous--worth keeping your eye on.

Cisco Cius

The iPad has a decidedly consumer focus, but the Cisco Cius is all business. A detachable, 1.15-pound tablet that connects to a docking station, the Cius features 7-inch touchscreen with a front-facing 720p HD camera for real-time video conferencing. It also has a 5-megapixel rear camera; 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi; 3G (and later 4G) wireless for business travel; and 8 hours of battery life, according to Cisco. Pricing isn't set, but the Cius should cost less than $1000 and ship in early 2011. Yep, that's a lot of money to pay for a tablet, and expectations will be high for Cisco's business slate.

Dell Streak

Is Dell's handheld device a mini-tablet or a freakishly large smartphone? With its 5-inch, 800-by-480 WVGA touchscreen, 1-GHz Snapdragon processor, and dual (front and rear) cameras, the palm-size Streak is a bit of an oddball: too big for pocket portability, yet too small to handle many business apps that are best suited for desktop use. Then again, the Streak may prove to be a better traveling companion than a conventional netbook or laptop, particularly once it steps up to enterprise-friendly Android 2.2 later this year.

Acer Tablet

Acer's upcoming Android tablet may have more in common with the Amazon Kindle than with the iPad. Introduced at a May press conference in Beijing, Acer's prototype device sports a 7-inch display with a Kindle-like keypad below it. Pricing and availability remain a mystery at this point, though Acer says that a late 2010 launch is likely. If the company retains the physical keypad, its slate will certainly stand out among the horde of iPad clones scheduled to arrive soon.

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Asus Eee Pad EP101TC

Is Asus switching teams? The Taiwanese tech titan originally named Windows Embedded Compact 7 as the operating system for its 10-inch touchscreen tablet, but recent word is that Asus will go with Android instead. This iPad-like device is 12.2 millimeters (about 0.5 inch) thick, weighs 675 grams (just under 1.5 pounds), and has nVidia Tegra chips under the hood. It reportedly will cost between $400 and $500 when it debuts early next year. Which version of Android will it run? Given the 2011 launch date, version 3.0, code-named Gingerbread, is a strong candidate.

LG Tablet

Earlier this year LG unveiled the UX10, a Windows 7 tablet with a 10.1-inch touchscreen, a 1.3-megapixel camera, and an HDMI port. And in July the South Korean electronics giant announced that it's working on an Android tablet, too. Sorry, no specs or photos yet, but LG has revealed that its Android slate will be thinner and lighter than competing tablets--which at this point means the iPad. Don't be surprised if the LG device resembles the UX10 (pictured here).

Samsung Tablet

It looks as though Samsung has a stealth slate in the works, too. According to the Android Tablet Website, Samsung's touchscreen device has an iPad-like design, though at 7 inches the display is significantly smaller than the iPad's (9.7 inches). Pictured here to the right of Samsung's Galaxy S smartphone, the Android slate includes a prominent 'Phone' icon on its home screen--but you have to wonder how many users will want to hold a massive tablet to their ear to make a call.

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Freescale Smartbook

More than a few hardware vendors, including MSI and Toshiba, are designing laptop/tablet hybrids. For business users, the combo may be a winner--a single device that functions as a conventional laptop in the office and as a tablet on the road. The "smartbook" reference design from Freescale Semiconductor is a $200 tablet with a 7-inch touchscreen. This low-cost slate would run Android, Chromium OS, or Linux, include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and possibly come with a detachable QWERTY keyboard. It's unclear when we'll see shipping slates based on Freescale's blueprint, but the $200 price makes it tantalizing.

MSI WindPad 110

Taiwan-based MSI has several slates in the works, including the WindPad 110, an Android tablet with a 10-inch (1024 by 600) touchscreen, a Webcam, two USB 2.0 ports, Wi-Fi and 3G wireless, HDMI high-definition video output, and a Samsung ARM or nVidia Tegra 2 processor. It will ship before the end of the year and cost around $400. MSI has had a lot of success in the netbook market. Can it build a tablet that business users will love?

Image creidt: TechWorld UK

Notion Ink Adam

The Adam is unique among Android slates. Its innovative 10.1-inch display has a full-code LCD mode for indoor use, a reflective e-paper mode (similar to the Amazon Kindle's display) for outdoor reading, and a third mode that makes the LCD easier to view in sunlight. With its 180-degree swivel camera for video and still images, its nVidia Tegra T20 chipset, and its ability to play HD video for up to 16 hours, the Adam has a strong multimedia bent. It may ship by the end of the year and may cost up to $800, owing to its unique attributes.

Archos 5 Internet Tablet

This portable media player has been shipping for a while now, and it's definitely more consumer gizmo than business slate. But the unit's 4.8-inch, 800-by-480-pixel display, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and (admittedly dated) Android 1.6 operating system make it an acceptable traveling companion. Suggestion for Archos: How about melding your larger Archos 9 tablet with the upcoming Android 3.0 OS to produce a better business device? The market is there, so perhaps Archos will take advantage of the opportunity to expand its tablet offerings.

Sony Slate

Do Sony designers dream of tablets? Let's hope so. Recent rumors, including a Wall Street Journal report, suggest that the consumer electronics behemoth is building a tablet-like Android gizmo that combines e-reading, netbook features, and PlayStation gaming capabilities. If true, the Sony slate will compete directly with the iPad, which has a similar media-consumption orientation. We still don't know whether Sony's tablet will appear this year, how much it will cost, and what its physical dimensions will be. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Sony launch several slates, including models tailored for consumer and business use.

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