On the eve of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, tablet mania is hitting a fever pitch. We may see dozens of tablets launched this week alone, many from the biggest brands in computing such as Lenovo, HTC and Asus. The presumed Apple (AAPL - Get Report) version in particular allegedly is going to become the new iPhone, changing our lives forever like a Messiah. The lines will go around the blocks. It feels like real estate pre-construction mania all over again.
(See all our CES 2010 coverage.)
Before we swallow the new tablet religion lock, stock and barrel, however, let's ask some basic questions:
- What will it do that the current smartphones and laptops don't do?
- Where will it be used?
- Who will afford it?
What will it do that's new? Most people who are the intended purchasers of a new tablet are allegedly already owners of an iPhone, Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry or whatever, plus a laptop. We can read the news on smartphones and laptops alike -- either by going to the Web sites or by using an RSS reader such as Viigo. If we want to read a book, Amazon (AMZN - Get Report), Barnes & Noble (BKS - Get Report) and Sony (SNE) already have the electronic book readers. It's far from clear what the functionality will be requiring a tablet.