Tablets in 2012: What to Expect

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Windows 8 Tablets

Android isn't the only news on the tablet-OS front for next year. Microsoft's big coming-out party for Windows 8 is scheduled for 2012, and Windows 8 is bound for tablets in a big way.

Today, several companies offer Windows 7 slates, including Dell, ExoPC, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Motion Computing, Samsung, and ViewSonic. With prices starting at $650 and running to nearly twice that, however, manufacturers typically position these tablets for use in the business world, where the Windows operating system reigns supreme, and where buyers tend to have custom software already designed for the OS.

Windows tablets have remained a niche item so far due to their comparatively higher prices, shorter battery life, and lack of a touch-optimized operating system and apps, but that situation should change with Windows 8.

Windows 8 Metro-style interface
The Windows 8 interface, filled with big "Metro-style" tiles, is optimized for touch navigation. And, in contrast to the current Windows 7 tablet models, which run on Intel Atom CPUs, Windows 8 will be able to run on ARM chips.

When it comes to complete end-to-end compatibility for data, apps, and peripherals, nothing compares to what a Windows device can offer. That’s a significant advantage over Android and iOS that Windows tablets should be able to exploit. Tablets running Windows 8 could address the twin troubles of file handling and app compatibility across devices, since you will be able to run the same software on a tablet as you will on a Metro-capable PC.

We still don't have a ship date for Windows 8, but we've heard rumblings about tablets running the OS coming as soon as summer 2012 (Nokia's head of French operations has alluded to that date). At the very least, Windows 8 tablets with less-expensive ARM CPUs are sure to shake up the tablet status quo.

Apple Tablets

Finally, with Apple having just released iOS 5.0, we don't expect a lot of innovation or announcements surrounding the iOS operating system and how it plays with the iPad 3. Those announcements will likely stay under wraps until closer to midyear, when Apple holds its Worldwide Developers Conference (the date has not yet been set, but it is rumored to be in June). Along the same lines, news of the rumored next Android OS, code-named Jelly Bean, will have to wait for confirmation at the Google I/O conference in April.

[For blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2012.]

Melissa J. Perenson covers the tablet beat for PCWorld.

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