Over the next few months, it appears that we’re going to be seeing a distinct divide between tablets and slates. There will probably be some crossover in naming conventions—some slates called tablets, maybe some tablets called slates—but for the sake of argument, let’s refer to tablets as devices that run more mobile-ish processors (the iPad’s A4 chip, ARM chips, Tegra chips, etc.) and slates as devices that are poised to behave more like portable computers (Atom processors, USB ports, Windows, etc.).
So Samsung has let it slip that it’s working on a slate PC (that’s an old Samsung Q1 UMPC in the above photo), a platform that, according to director of Samsung Australia’s IT division Philip Newton, ought to address certain shortcomings of devices like the iPad.
Newton told APCMag.com the following: “The problems I see with the iPad are its processing power and [lack of] connectivity to a certain extent. I do feel that the slate-type platform has legs but I think the legs need to be far more powerful, for example an Atom-based product which has far greater flexibility, not to mention inputs and outputs. This has more potential than an iPad.”
Whether you agree or not, the fact of the matter is that this is where tablets and slates are headed. Tablets will be super thin, have long battery life, and run somewhat limited operating systems (Apple iPad, Android tablets, etc.) while slates will run more robust operating systems at the expense of being a bit heavier, suffering from shorter battery life, and perhaps running more sluggishly than a streamlined tablet would.
While little else is known about Samsung’s offering aside from that it’ll be available in the second half of this year and, according to the company, has the chance “to become a primary device in terms of its processing power and IO… a device that could be taken home or to the office and docked,” it’s going to fall into the slate camp of devices that will attempt to more closely replicate the experience of a portable computer.
The uphill battle for slates will be trying to convince consumers that the devices can really, truly be used for both content creation and content consumption. Tablets aren’t pushing the idea of content creation nearly as hard as content consumption features. Sure, the iPad will have a keyboard dock but it must be purchased separately and, priced at $70, it’s almost like Apple’s saying, “Man, you must really want to try to update your blog using only this iPad.”
Slates, on the other hand, are touting input ports as one of the key differentiators. “This slate has a USB port! Plug in any keyboard you want! No need to buy a new one! Hell, plug in anything that’s USB! Do whatever you like as long as you think of this as a regular computer.”
So while some early reactions to the iPad appeared to be lukewarm (“It’s just a big iPod touch!”), tablets like that, if priced correctly, don’t have as much to live up to. If the experience is even just above average, people will be okay with it since they weren’t expecting to be able to use the tablet as a primary device. It’s these slates that are going to have to deliver what they’re promising much more robustly if they want to be taken seriously.