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The Best Tablets of CES

Every year, the heavyweights in the technology world gather in Las Vegas to show off their latest gadgets, gizmos, and gimmicks at CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. CES 2011 just ended last week, but the internet is still buzzing about what it’s seen.

Last year at CES, 3D televisions were everywhere. And this year, as expected, the one technology you couldn’t escape was tablet computing. With last year’s launch of the Apple iPad, tablet PCs, which have been a floundering technology for over a decade, finally found a place in the consumer market. This year, the market share of tablets is expected to grow exponentially. Apple is expected to release the iPad 2 sometime in the first or early second quarter. But this time around, it won’t be uncontested.

Here’s a look at some of the best new tablets that debuted at CES 2011.

Motorola's upcoming Xoom tablet will run the latest version of Android

Most of the 80 tablets that showed up at CES were running some version of Google’s Android Operating System. Of the Android tablets, the one to beat was Motorola’s Xoom tablet.

Seen as the first real competitor of the iPad (not counting last year’s Samsung Galaxy Tab) the Motorola Xoom (pronounced ‘Zoom’) will run the upcoming Android Honeycomb OS, the first build of Android made specifically for tablets. It boasts a slightly larger display than the iPad’s, a front-facing camera as well as a rear-facing HD camera, and also features USB and HDMI ports.

Blackberry was also showing off their upcoming tablet, the Blackberry Playbook. The tablet was garnering considerable buzz at CES, and, if anything, it will be noteworthy as being one of the few non-Android tablets that has a chance of succeeding. It will be an uphill battle, however, as it won’t have nearly as many apps available at launch as the Android and Apple tablets have at their disposal.

The Asus Eee Slate will run Windows 7

Want a tablet, but not one running a mobile OS? This is where things get interesting. Of the handful of tablets running a full version of Windows 7, the big one is Asus’s Eee Slate EP121. The tablet boasts quite a large display, (12 inches, as compared to the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen) but more importantly, it has the processing power required to run full blown applications, like Adobe’s Creative Suite. This is where tablet computers have the chance to shift from pure novelty acts to revolutionary pieces of hardware. The ability to run complex, hardware-intensive programs will make tablets like the Eee Slate a must-have for many businesses, artists, and consumers alike.

More in the coming weeks on why I believe this kind of tablet is so important to professionals, suffice to say- the difference between being able to “touch” a webpage or online magazine and being able to touch a new software product or website you’re developing is akin to the difference between reading a fairy tale and reading the encyclopedia; one is comforting, exciting, and just a little bit magical, and the other–while less flashy, zippy, and shiny– can change the way you think, work, and compute. But as I said, more on that in the coming weeks.

While there were plenty of Windows 7 tablets running around the floor at CES, the software juggernaut’s own presentation was notably lacking in the tablet department. Microsoft’s presentation was focused more on its upcoming web offerings and Xbox gaming system. While some may see this as more evidence that the company has lost touch with the times, others have lauded Microsoft for not merely reacting to or imitating the Apple iPad, a common criticism aimed at the countless tablets on show at CES.

Of course, it was Microsoft who began pushing tablet computers in the early 2000’s. So one could argue that they’re not quite as behind-the-game as they may appear. Regardless, whether it’s the Blackberry Playbook, the Asus Eee Slate, the Apple iPad 2, the Motorola Xoom, or any of the other countless Android tablets sprinting to the marketplace, there’s no denying that 2011 is shaping up to be the Year of the Tablet. The question, in my mind, is whether these “luxury items” will remain relegated to the world of Cool-Techno-Toys, or whether full-computing machines like the Asus Eee Slate will catch on, and change the way we do business.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back early next week for a brand new Why Didn’t I Think of That? story. In the mean time, check us out on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @whydidnti and @thinkofthat.

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