Tablet Speculation Leads to Holiday Dilemma

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Thanks primarily to the Apple iPad, 2010 has shaped up to be a year dominated by tablets. With the holiday shopping season getting into gear, tablets are at the top of many wish lists, but speculation about next-generation tablets might be a good reason to hold off. The question is--buy a tablet now, or wait to see if the rumors pan out and be first in line for the next wave of tablets?

A recent survey reported that Apple dominates the tablet market with 95 percent market share. Of course, it was a silly survey because at the time the only tablet "competition" that was even available to the general public was the Dell Streak, so the bigger news is how Apple could possibly not have 100 percent market share.

Now that the HP Slate 500, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab are available, though, the tablet game is a little more interesting. Regardless of the preferred platform, tablets are going to be a hot gift item for the holidays. A survey from Egnyte found that 70 percent of respondents are hoping for an iPad, while the remaining 30 percent covet the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Perhaps a little patience is in order, though. Rumors and speculation abound that the first quarter of 2011 could see a wave of second-generation tablets with new and improved features. It would be a shame for your Christmas present to be obsolete before Valentine's Day.

In Video: Android Tablet Roundup

For starters, tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab run on the Android OS. Google has stated flatly that Android was not designed with a tablet experience in mind. It is working on a tablet-friendly version of Android--Android 3.0 a.k.a. "Honeycomb"--which is expected in early 2011. Rather than rushing to get an Android tablet that is essentially a very large smartphone, maybe it makes sense to wait and jump on the Android tablet bandwagon after Android is actually designed to run on a tablet.

There are also rumors that Samsung could be working on a more tablet-sized 10-inch tablet. The 7-inch tablet has been marketed as a feature--it is smaller, lighter, and more portable. However, those "benefits" also hamper its functionality as a tablet. There are reports that the real reason for the focus on 7-inch tablets is that the current releases of the Android OS do not scale well above 7-inches. Perhaps when Android "Honeycomb" hits the streets it will be able to deliver a solid experience on a 10-inch device.

Then we have the iPad. The iPad is everywhere this holiday season. You can get them from Target, Best Buy, Amazon, AT&T, Verizon, and even TJ Maxx apparently. The thing is--for all it popularity--the iPad has its fair share of weaknesses as a tablet as well. Some of those issues will be addressed if and when Apple finally releases iOS 4.2 (now iOS 4.2.1) for the iPad.

Bringing the iPad into the world of iOS 4 will fix some things, but there are other factors that can only be resolved through a hardware update. New reports are circulating that the iPad 2 will come in early 2011--perhaps as early as January. The next-generation iPad will almost certainly include front and rear facing cameras and Apple's Facetime video chat. The new iPad may also have a mini-USB port, and it seems reasonable to expect a processor and/or RAM upgrade as well.

Of course, the impending wave of next-generation tablets could lead Apple, Samsung, and others to offer steep holiday discounts to clear out inventory and make room for the new devices. So, what's it going to be: instant holiday gratification, or exercising a little patience to hold out to see what the next generation tablets have to offer?

Android Phones and the Galaxy Tab at CTIA Wireless

Apple's iPad Coming to Verizon

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