Examining Tablet Computer Craze
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
And it's time now for All Tech Considered.
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NORRIS: And we're going to spend some time talking tablet computing in this week's installment. Less than a year after Apple started a touch-screen tablet revolution, the company is already set to release the next generation of the iPad. IPad 2 is supposed to debut this week.
Meantime, HP, Samsung and Motorola are just beginning to offer similar machines. Donald Bell covers tablets for CNET.com and he joins us now to talk about all of this. Welcome to the program.
Mr. DONALD BELL (Senior Editor, CNET.com): Thanks for having me.
NORRIS: Now, before we get to some of the iPad competitors, what are some of the new features that Apple might rule out with this new iPad 2?
Mr. BELL: The pretty obvious new features are it's going to be thinner, it's going to be lighter. It's going to have a camera, probably a front-facing camera so that people can do video chat. But beyond that, it's - I don't think Apple has to do a whole lot to keep their lead and keep people interested.
NORRIS: We mentioned a few, but tell me about some of these other tablets and what they might offer.
Mr. BELL: Well, the biggest competitor to Apple on the tablet front is Google. And they don't make a tablet specifically, but they make an operating system called Android that is on a lot of these devices. The manufacturers, there's -Samsung has a tablet in the race. Motorola has a new one called the Zoom that I just reviewed last week. And then there's a lot of smaller competitors that take that Android operating system and they put them on really inexpensive tablets that aren't great to play with, but they can compete.
NORRIS: Do they all have basic features? Are they all touch screen tablets? Can you expand the image in the way that you can in an iPad. If you turn it around, does the image sort of follow you as you turn the tablet around?
Mr. BELL: Yeah. And it's a lot of follow the leader. A lot of people know that, you know, they need to make something that is as like the iPad as possible, but still put their own unique spin on it.
NORRIS: You know, the iPad is basically a platform. The reason that it is as successful as it is or has been embraced as broadly as it has been, because of all the applications, you can basically use your iPad to do all kinds of things if you are able to, you know, load it up with all kinds of apps. Can you do that with these other tablets?
Mr. BELL: Not to the point that you can with the iPad. I mean, when they're advertising the iPad or even the iPhone to a certain extent, they're just showing off the apps. They're not even showing off the phone's features anymore at this point. They're just kind of showing off all the fun stuff you can do with apps. And they've got - a last quote was around 60,000 apps just made for the iPad, for the larger screen of the tablet.
And right now Google has finally unveiled their Android 3.0 operating system, which is made for tablets and are saying that they're ready to start making applications just for that tablet operating system now, too. But they're just starting. So there's a lot of catch-up involved.
NORRIS: If Apple wants to maintain its first to the market advantage, what will it have to do stay ahead?
Mr. BELL: Not much. I don't - I'm not necessarily the biggest Apple evangelist, but I do think Apple has done something pretty special with the iPad, which is that they've convinced consumers to buy a product they don't really need. I mean, they've taken smartphones, which is kind of a necessary thing that people need, they've taken laptop computers and traditional desktop computers and then they've forced them aside a little bit to make a new market of a tablet computer that can kind of straddle both of those. But then no one - there's no precedent for it.
NORRIS: Donald Bell, thanks so much for talking to us.
Mr. BELL: Oh, it was wonderful talking to you.
NORRIS: Donald Bell is a senior editor at CNET.com.
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