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Will a Tablet Be Your New Best Friend?

Portability and features make these devices an alternative to your laptop

En español | Article highlights:

  • Tablets are here to stay, with 82 new models introduced this year so far
  • The devices can be even more portable than your laptop
  • Many replace your most common used gadgets, including, MP3 players, e-readers and email clients


On trains and planes the transformation is obvious. The laptop computer is being replaced by a tablet, most often by Apple's iPad. No more juggling to find room on your tray table. No more struggling to hold a laptop steady on your lap while you try to type an email. The tablet is rapidly becoming the boomer's favorite traveling companion.

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Director Spike Lee holds an iPad.

Actor and director Spike Lee takes an image with his iPad. — Spencer Platt/Getty Images

82 Tablets and Counting

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), manufacturers announced they would be bringing no fewer than 82 tablet computers to market this year. Most are using the latest version of Google's Android operating system. The new "Playbook" tablet from BlackBerry maker Research in Motion has its own operating system but will also run Android applications. Some tablets run versions of Microsoft Windows, and Hewlett Packard is betting on the WebOS system it acquired when it bought Palm. And, of course, even though it wasn't at CES, Apple's introduction of the improved iPad 2 kept it in position as the head and shoulders market leader.

When I first saw the iPad, I was skeptical. I am a keyboard intensive user, so I didn't think it would replace my laptop. With 8 to 10 hours of battery life, it couldn't hold a candle to my Kindle's 10 days of charge. With 32 GB of storage, it didn't compete with the 300 GB of storage on my Archos media player.

But while the iPad didn't perform any of those functions perfectly, it performs all of them well enough to allow me to take it with me and leave a trunk load of the standalone gadgets behind. It's my electronic newspaper, my e-reader, my entertainment center, and my application and productivity tool for everything except document creation.

And I'm clearly not alone. The NPD Group, which tracks technology trends, says that migrating tasks from the PC to tablets is taking place "with ease and with high satisfaction for consumers." Its survey finds that 68 percent are satisfied with using the Internet on the tablet, and 67 percent satisfied with email on the devices. Since there were few non-Apple tablets in the market at the time of the survey, obviously this was mostly about iPads.

Next: Screen size matters. >>

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