Tablet Computers Are The Next Big Thing

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At the beginning of the year, Apple unveiled the iPad. Rivals have since announced their own tablet computers. To find out more about the iPad's competition, Steve Inskeep talks to Matt Buchanan, a tech writer at Gizmodo.com.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Many of those online services are piped through Internet providers, into computers, mobile phones and now tablet computers. Tablet sales exploded this year with the launch of Apple's iPad in January. Other companies have since rolled out competitors. And Matt Buchanan of Gizmodo.com has been trying them out.

If I'm not mistaken, at some point during this year, you bought an Apple iPad, one of the huge devices of the year. Are you finishing the year with an Apple iPad?

Mr. MATT BUCHANAN (Technology Writer, Gizmodo): I bought it on launch day and I sold it last week.

INSKEEP: Sold it last week?

Mr. BUCHANAN: Yes.

INSKEEP: Why would you sell an iPad when it's the thing that everybody seems to want?

Mr. BUCHANAN: Because there's a new version coming out in a few months and right now is maximum resale time, so I sold my iPad, which I paid $730 for. I sold it for well over $600. I probably could have gotten more but I sold it - I made the mistake of selling it to a friend so I couldn't really push the price. And, you know, iPad II will come out and I think they'll improve a lot of the other sort of technical specifications.

INSKEEP: Okay, so in any case, you got rid of the iPad that you had earlier in the year. You're waiting for a newer version of that to come out, but there are other competing tablets now in the market. I suppose you could consider other products here if you wanted to do that.

Mr. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.

INSKEEP: What other tablets are out there or on the way right now that are gaining traction, getting a lot of sales?

Mr. BUCHANAN: So tablets out there right now, the Galaxy Tab, which appears to be pretty successful internationally. Anecdotally, it's not doing as well as the United States.

INSKEEP: Okay. Why is that product not catching on? You don't seem to love it as much. I wonder if part it is just that Apple gets so much more press for anything that they do.

Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, I don't think it's fully baked. Google has said about their own operating system, they've said that the current version of it is not designed for tablets. The thing about tablets right now, I think it's going to be kind of crazy confusing market because there are going to be so many tablets coming out from so many people because so many companies see this as the next big thing.

The CEO of RIM, who makes BlackBerry, is getting into it as well with a seven-inch tablet they call a Playbook. It's interesting if you lay these things out next to each other, a four-inch phone with a seven-inch tablet and then a 10-inch tablet. So the iPad is 10 inches and this Galaxy Tablet is seven, you're actually talking about half as much screen space on the seven inch tablet as you have on a 10-inch tablet, so it's a radically different speed of applications that you can accomplish on a 10-inch tablet versus a seven-inch tablet. And I think you haven't seen a really well designed interface for a seven-inch tablet yet.

The closet thing is this, is the Nook Color from Barnes & Noble, which is primarily designed to be an Omni reading device because it reads books, magazines, storybooks, you can browse the Web on it. But, unlike most of these tablets, which are starting at 500 bucks, this thing is only $250, which I think for what it does is actually really impressive.

INSKEEP: Is somebody already imagining what the next big thing is going to be after the tablet or is this going to be the format that's going to be growing massively for some years to come?

Mr. BUCHANAN: A lot of people are placing their bets that this is the next big thing. Right now I don't think they'll replace a laptop for very many people, which is why I think you saw Apple introduce an 11-inch MacBook Air, which is their very thin, very small notebook computer with a full keyboard.

INSKEEP: Right.

Mr. BUCHANAN: It was sort of a tacit admission that you can't really replace a computer with something like an iPad right now.

INSKEEP: Matt Buchanan of Gizmodo.com. Thanks very much.

Mr. BUCHANAN: Yep. Thanks for having me.

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