Back in 2001, Intel tried to convince us tablet PCs were the future -- but nobody wanted them. Later, in 2006, a consortium of companies cunningly tried to flog us tablets under the guise of the ultra-mobile PC -- but again, people yawned and looked the other way. In 2010, nearly a full decade since tablets originally emerged, a slew of companies -- spurred by the Apple iPad -- are trying once again to shove these odd little slates down our collective throats, but are any of these devices is worth investing in now?
The first, and most high-profile, contender is the Apple iPad. Unveiled to an excitable collection of journalists in San Francisco on 27 January, the device promises to deliver a more intimate browsing experience than ordinary laptops, in a more comfortable form factor than the iPhone or iPod touch.
The iPad's compatibility with existing iPhone applications, multi-touch input and claimed 10-hour battery life should make it an interesting proposition, particularly for those who enjoy gaming or watching movies. There are a few drawbacks, however, notably its inability to multitask, play Adobe Flash videos and the fact it'll have a comparatively limited amount of storage space.
Apple's iPad could have some serious competition
HP's tablet had the honour of being singled out by Microsoft head honcho Steve Ballmer as one of the future stars of 2010. The Slate started around the concept of an ebook reader platform, but evolved when HP received feedback from users who demanded a richer media experience.
As a result, HP has fitted it with a colour display, a copy of Windows 7 and given it the sort of functionality the iPad can only dream of. Flash video playback, compatibility with a huge library of PC software -- it's all here, but it'll live or die on its price tag and whether HP can convince the world there's really a place for this sort of thing in your
HP's Slate PC is due in 2010
Dell Mini 5
The beautiful and diminutive Dell Mini 5's 5-inch display makes it reminiscent of the personal digital assistants that were so popular in the early noughties. These devices died a miserable, dusty death in cupboards and basements across the world, so the iSlate will have its work cut out if it's to avoid a similar fate.
Its advantage over its rivals are its portability -- it's the smallest slate device we've seen thus far -- and Dell's intention to supply it with the Google Android operating system could appeal to anyone who doesn't want the restrictive, exclusory environment of an Apple device or the clunkiness of a Windows machine.
Dell's Mini 5 should fit snugly in your pocket
The JooJoo was formerly known as the Crunchpad, before its Singapore-based makers parted company with those who helped start the project. We were told device would go on sale at the end of 2009, but it could now be delayed indefinitely, depending on whether those involved in the project manage to settle their differences. Hopefully they'll do just that, as this device has a lot going for it, including a 12-inch capacitive display, USB connectivity and the fact it takes just 9 seconds from hitting the power button to arriving at its home screen. We're told the device will use a custom Linux operating system and weigh 1.1kg, though storage will be limited to just 4GB.
Will the JooJoo ever be released?
Those who want a Windows-flavoured tablet experience should cast an eye in the direction of the Archos 9. The device, as its name implies, sports a 9-inch (8.9-inch, to be precice) display, though this is of the resistive variety so you'll need to apply pressure before it'll register your inputs. It makes up for this eccentricity with the inclusion of two USB ports, a 60GB 1.8-inch hard drive, an integrated 1.3-megapixel webcam and a battery that, while only lasting a maximum of 5 hours, is at least removable.
The Archos 9 is a full PC in a slender chassis