Is Microsoft squaring-up for a tablet battle?
Tablet computers are set to dominate 2010 but will you buy one, asks Shane Richmond.
Rumours have been building for months that Microsoft plans to challenge Apple’s iPad with a tablet computer of their own.
The Courier, thought to be a dual-screen tablet computer that opens like a book, was implicitly confirmed last week in a post on the Microsoft Jobs website that referred to “the forthcoming Courier digital journal”.
The post was quickly edited to remove the mention of the Courier but that didn’t stop the rumour mill.
Those rumours say that Microsoft’s Courier will weigh about a pound and be less than one inch thick.
Just as the iPad runs on the same operating system as the iPhone, it’s thought that the Courier will share the Windows Phone 7 Series mobile operating system.
Of course, with nobody at Microsoft prepared to officially confirm the device, it’s impossible to be sure.
Apple’s iPad launches in America next week and comes to these shores at the end of April.
Such is the hype around the device that analysts are predicting that tablet computers will become one of the growth technology categories of 2010.
Launching the iPad in January, Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, said that he believed his company had successfully created “a third category” of devices that would sit between smartphones and laptop computers.
What do you use when a laptop is too cumbersome and too powerful for your needs but a smartphone has too small a screen and is not powerful enough?
For a few years the technology industry thought the answer would be so-called netbooks, ultra-portable but low-powered laptops.
But Apple believes netbooks offer the worst of both worlds, not the best, and the technology industry appears to agree.
Asus, a company that was instrumental in driving the netbook market, will launch a ‘netbook tablet’ in Europe next month.
This hybrid device has a netbook-style full keyboard which folds away to offer a tablet-style experience when required.
Then there’s the JooJoo tablet, which launches in the US imminently and boasts the largest touchscreen - 12.1 inches - of the new tablet crowd.
Other industries are looking expectantly at the new devices. The publishing industry hopes tablets will give e-books a much needed boost, while newspapers and magazines are making plans for money-spinning applications.
Then there are games, productivity apps and other kinds of software. Analyst Michael Wolf, of GigaOm, predicts that the tablet application market will be worth $8bn a year by 2015.
For tablets to succeed, those who own both a smartphone and a laptop will have to be convinced that a third device offers enough to make it worth buying and light users of computers will need to be sufficiently tempted to make the switch.