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Verizon sees rise of 'slate' computers in 2010

The wireless communications giant is looking closely at tablet and Netbook computers and whether it could market them.

Verizon is looking closely at "slate" computers as it plans to expand its portfolio of offerings in 2010.

OLPC's XO-3 tablet concept: Verizon expects many slate devices to emerge in 2010
OLPC's XO-3 tablet concept: Verizon expects many 'slate' devices to emerge in 2010 OLPC

In an interview, Brian Ullem, who heads emerging devices for Verizon Wireless, discussed slate computers (aka tablets) and Netbooks and what these mean--and could mean--to Verizon's future.

"I do think that slates are going to be emerging in rapid succession in 2010," Ullem told me. "What remains to be seen is how people use them. And the operating systems that manufacturers and carriers will select."

Verizon is looking at the slate computer as an emerging device that it would possibly market, Ullem said.

And what may be inside some of these devices? Verizon is looking at Nvidia's Tegra processor, among many possibilities. The graphics chipmaker's new processor is expected to be used in tablet or slate computers that will come to market in 2010.

What does he think about Apple's influence? "Apple has been very good at defining new categories where there previously has been limited interest," he said. The Apple tablet, if it debuts as expected early next year, has the potential to be a disruptive product, Ullem said.

And the operating system for these emerging devices? Ullem mentioned Jolicloud, Intel's Moblin, and Google's Chrome OS as possibilities, with the caveat that Internet connectivity with a pleasant interface isn't enough. "Look at Ubuntu [Linux]. Just getting (consumers) on the Web is not good enough," he said. "There has to be enough elements of what they're used to in order for it to be adopted." Ubuntu has not been as successful as expected in mobile devices.

Verizon continues to see steady Netbook sales at stores.
Verizon continues to see steady Netbook sales at stores. Verizon

Ullem categorizes products that the Verizon stores handle or will potentially handle in order of ascending size as: smart devices (smartphones), mobile Internet devices (MIDs), and Netbooks. "Anything up to a 7-inch device is a MID...anything over that is a Netbook-class device or PC-computing device," he said.

To consumers, MIDs will look like oversize smartphones or small tablets. Larger-size tablets (with a 10-inch diagonal screen size) will be more like a full-blown personal computing device, Ullem said.

Other devices that may appear in Verizon stores? "Picture frames, video cameras, digital cameras, gaming equipment...we will look at everything that will be bring an additional subscriber to the network. Basically, Verizon looks to put more devices that are wirelessly enabled into customers hands."

And Verizon stores continue to see steady Netbook sales. "After an initial burst when they first hit the stores around Thanksgiving, sales have slowed a bit, though they are still steady," said Bob Elek Manager, a Verizon spokesman. "Customers appear to like the versatility that the Netbook offers, as well as the smaller size."